Cos the moral doesn’t matter / broken rules are all the same / to the broken and the breaker / who’s to bless and who’s to blame

The last twen­ty four hours in Bangkok have been hor­rif­ic, with two oppos­ing polit­i­cal fac­tions refus­ing to back down from con­fronta­tion, one egged on by a leader sit­ting in a plush suite in Dubai. I’m not going to go into the polit­i­cal back and forth here, par­tial­ly (and it’s a huge part) because I don’t under­stand Thai pol­i­tics which are enor­mous­ly com­plex, and I don’t want to mis-state things I don’t quite get. I always think that west­ern­ers who try and pre­tend they ful­ly under­stand and who tout them­selves as immersed and more Asian than the Asians are amongst the sad­dest peo­ple you find in this part of the world.

As I said when I post­ed a cou­ple of weeks back, I spent some hours wan­der­ing and pho­tograph­ing the red crowds and it was a staunch but uplift­ing occa­sion, almost fair-like in its atmos­phere. Indeed I was about to head down to the Chit Lom inter­sec­tion yes­ter­day when the gov­ern­ment shut the BTS (Sky­train) and I doubt­ed I’d find a cab to take me there so I canned the idea, much to Brigid’s relief.

Clear­ly, in the past few days that changed and it got ugly. That some of the pro­tes­tors were using live bul­lets and grenades was awful and clear­ly speaks to a, I think, small, but heav­i­ly mil­i­tant ele­ment which ramped things until it got out of con­trol. And it was inevitable the gov­ern­ment would have to say enough, that much was always clear.

I was espe­cial­ly upset for the kids. There were thou­sands of young peo­ple and chil­dren amongst the crowds I wit­nessed first hand, and I thought of fam­i­lies like this, who were so kind to me, and I hoped they were ok:

family with Redshirts

Late last night I began to to scur­ry through the inter­na­tion­al media to see what the cov­er­age was like. This page, of incred­i­ble shots, stood out, as did this footage on Swedish TV, and this slideshow from Reuters, the last two both show­ing Khao San Rd, back­pack­er cen­tral, and the gen­er­a­tor of vast amounts of rev­enue for the city, which last night became a war zone.

Google News indi­cat­ed that the most recent sto­ry was being cov­ered by over 6,000 out­lets around the world, as one of the biggest sto­ries on the plan­et:


So I thought, at about 6am New Zealand time, about 12 hours after the shit had hit the fan, if you will, and bod­ies had begun to fall in Bangkok, I’d see how the biggest news out­lets in NZ were cov­er­ing this. After all, it’s on our doorstep, we are in the same region, mem­bers of APEC, asso­ciate mem­bers of ASEAN, thou­sands of New Zealan­ders (far, far more than vis­it Poland year­ly, or ever) have been here, many Thai live in New Zealand and we have a free trade agree­ment.

This is what I found:

NZ Her­ald




I was reli­ably informed that this was the news item that had gone through to the edi­tors at TVNZ. They’d cho­sen not to run it but gone with the death of a politi­cian that almost no New Zealan­ders could name from a coun­try that few New Zealan­ders could pin-point on a map instead as lead item. I won­der how many New Zealan­ders are in Thai­land right now?
Sur­prised? No, not real­ly. Shocked? Yes still, but appalled is prob­a­bly the bet­ter word, and ashamed. Is It any won­der that New Zealan­ders seem, if my per­son­al expe­ri­ence is any guide, to be giv­ing Amer­i­cans a run in the glob­al igno­rance stakes these days.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Peter Vegas
April 13, 2010 at 6:27 am

That video footage was real­ly inter­est­ing. You take care mate.

xx Vegas

April 13, 2010 at 7:59 am

The media are look­ing for sto­ries that can be put into a 5 minute sound­bite. Clear­ly defined good­ies and bad­dies help, and like you say, it’s com­pli­cat­ed.

(A friend of mine under­stands the sit­u­a­tion, most­ly. She spent sev­er­al years in Thai­land doing a PhD around Thai polit­i­cal issues. Her short expla­na­tion took half an hour. That does­n’t fit with NZ news agen­das).

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