How many rivers do we have to cross / Before we can talk to the boss?

It real­ly doesn’t seem like two years since we stood on the top floor of our town­house and watched smoke rise as a cou­ple of malls, banks, The Stock Exchange and a cin­e­ma — a total of 35 build­ings — burned a few kilo­me­tres west of here after the army moved in to clear the Red Shirt pro­tes­tors who’d been encamped in (and had com­plete­ly paral­ysed then shut down) the retail heart of this mega-opo­lis. They’d been there for two months, cost­ing the city and the coun­try mil­lions and, at least in the short term, some 60,000 jobs.

It clear­ly couldn’t be allowed to con­tin­ue and an impasse seem­ing irre­solv­able — but nobody was real­ly pre­pared for what hap­pened in those final few days of may­hem.

How­ev­er worse than the fires and the mon­ey lost, were the shock­ing deaths of some 91 peo­ple in cir­cum­stances that remain less than trans­par­ent (and cer­tain­ly far less clear-cut than many off­shore rights advo­cates would have you believe) in an ear­li­er bat­tle around the Khao San Road area, a cou­ple of skir­mish­es around the city and then that dread­ful finale on May 19th, 2010.

At the time of writ­ing some 18 sep­a­rate enquires are under­way includ­ing one into the Japan­ese film jour­nal­ist Hiro Muramo­to’s death, but the pace of enquiry is the cause of con­tin­u­ing nation­al fric­tion.

All that aside — and I have to remain pub­licly apo­lit­i­cal on all this — what was obvi­ous was the sense of mas­sive nation­al trau­ma and intense (pan-polit­i­cal spec­trum) shock the blood spilt caused. The coun­try was psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly trau­ma­tised and is still try­ing to come to terms with how it end­ed up in a place where 89 of its cit­i­zens (and two for­eign­ers — Muramo­to and Ital­ian jour­nal­ist Fabio Polenghi) lay dead in the streets of its cap­i­tal.

On Sat­ur­day some 50,000 Red Shirts gath­ered peace­ful­ly in Ratchapra­song, the site of that final show­down — in the shad­ow of the new­ly reopened Zen depart­ment store, torched by the pro­test­ers two years back to the day as the APCs rolled in. I wan­dered around — as I’d done a cou­ple of times two years back — and took a few shots:

Yingluck T shirtsRed couple with a red pickup A confusion of T Shirt messagesHappy (red) clappers A mini mountain of rambutansFree water bottle dispensersBBQsA gallery of images from the 2010 protestsShadeBe-flagged HarleyT ShirtsHappy but staunchRed CoffeeSecurityImages of the 2010 protestsImages of the 2010 protestsMemorial to Hiro MuramotoThaksin MasksFlagbearerspreparing the free foodThe stageMonk praying with protestors ZenBlack Shirt guard surveying the crowdYingluck coin pursesThaksins carry bagZenHa Ha HaRedshirts listening to the bandIn the shadow of Zen

Iron­i­cal­ly, less that 300 metres from the ral­ly the malls were packed — out­side the large Bul­gari store in the Paragon’s Hall of Mir­rors, hun­dreds milled around a dis­play of the new Lotus and Lam­borgh­i­ni mod­els obliv­i­ous to the events in the street out­side. I guess that divide hasn’t quite evap­o­rat­ed.…

These were tak­en between mid­day and about 3pm when my cam­era card filled, although the ral­ly went to 2am. A friend was there the next morn­ing at 10am and there was no sign these peo­ple and this event had ever been there — the streets had been scrubbed clean and were full of the nor­mal traf­fic grid­lock.

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