Thursday, January 23, 2014

Anti-Government Protest in Bangkok - Who are they?

The anti-government protest, the 'Whistlers' as they called themselves, have been protesting in Bangkok for over two months. They are calling for the government led by Yingluck Shinawatra to resign and end the corruption and the influence of her brother Thaksin in Thailand. They are people from all walks of life and from every regions of the country. They are people of all creed, religion, occupation and social standing in Thai society. They are people of all political spectrum, from the opponents of the government, to former supporters who once voted this very government into office and now suffer the consequence of its empty promises, mismanagement and corruption. The protest started off as a peaceful movement, and continue to remain so till this day. By day, they march around the capital, gathering support and shutting down governmental offices. By night, they stay at the camps, eating and sleeping on the streets.

But now they are under attack. Domestically guns and grenades are weapons of choice, and they are used more and more regularly both day and night. And internationally different kind of weapons are being used against them. These weapons are words, misinformation and lies. They are used by reputable media outlet to lend these words some degree of credibility to undermine everything the anti-government protest have stood for and came to represent. The words like 'anti-democratic', 'violent', and 'militant' are used to falsely describe the protesters.

Out of the many lies disguised as journalism, one by Time magazine stands out the most to me. For the author and the editor to allow this propaganda piece to be published is the final push over the edge that force me to respond in defense of the protesters.

Below is my open letter to Time magazine, expressing my sentiment.

Dear Time magazine,

Having read your article and its poor attempt to explain the situation in Bangkok, I can't just sit still but respond with my own thought and experience on the event unfolding at my doorstep.

The most pressing issue and one that I personally take offense to is your characterization of this protest movement being violent in nature. We (I consider myself part of this protest and support its goal) have been called many things from being rebels (which we happily accept) to militant by your peer the Washington post. Here I would like to directly address your false accusation of our peaceful movement and take apart your idea of 'Violent'.

America, the country where your once esteemed publication is based in, is no stranger to violence in real life and on a regular basis. On the domestic front, police brutality and use of excessive force is becoming a norm, many of which resulted in death of innocent civilians. Your law allowed an armed man to shoot and kill a teenager, and quite literally let him get away with murder. On a global scale, you are currently in a war that you started by have no plan to end it. Your drone strikes commit act of war that border on war crimes in the eyes of the international communities. If I could I would be more specific and detailed, providing proper sources and citations. But, unlike you, I'm not a paid columnist with any training in journalism, so I am not bound by any such obligation. But you and your writer of this particular attack piece must be held to the highest standards of journalism and integrity, both of which you have failed to display in your published article.

The point I'm trying to make here is this: you either have a twisted sense of what peace and violence is, or this article its intentionally biased with ulterior motive of undermining our peaceful movement in exchange of or, for financial or political favor from parties involved. You called the Red Shirt protest peaceful but very conveniently fail to mention that they held the city of Bangkok hostage for two months before setting buildings on fire as ordered by their leaders. It's that your idea of 'peaceful'? At the same time, any act of violence the protest are involved in, we see the one on the receiving end of that violence. So far one has died, close to a hundred injured, many in critical condition. Nothing justify you or any other media calling us 'violent' or 'militant'. Calling us violent is categorically false. It's like you blaming Poland for starting World War 2 when Nazi Germany invaded it.

Besides, you should back up your words and prove to the readers of how much of a violent lawless mob this protest has been so far. From my own experience, I have never felt safer among them. The same cannot be said of the Red Shirt protest, where I was confronted when trying to take a photograph of them carrying weapons and marching the street.

A once reputable publication like yourself have the power to influence public opinion, for better or worse. You clearly have chosen to take side that no longer serve the public interest. And for that I'm calling you out. You calling a peaceful protest 'violent' is no difference than accusing them of a crime they did not commit. Shame on you.

Shown below are some of the photographs I took as I joined in their protest. With their number reaching the peak at around 5 millions, I simply cannot photograph every faces in the crowd. All I can do is to try show some of these faces that hopefully represent the faces of the nation. To see more visit here and here.