May 20, 2010–I’ve never used this blog to promote or comment on a national political situation before, but the conflict in Thailand has finally reached such a heightened state it is effecting regions outside Bangkok, including rural areas in the northeast and the northern city of Chiang Mai (about 1 hour away from FAE’s Elephant Hospital). Consequently, I feel it is time I wrote about it here.

Since mid-March, more than 65 people have been killed and more than 1,000 people have been injured, according to a Ministry of Health report. On May 15, 2010, the Huffington Post called the conflict “the most prolonged and deadliest bout of political violence that Thailand has faced in decades despite having a history of coups – 18 since it became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.”

I have not heard much from Soraida Salwala, the founder of the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) Elephant Hospital, but she wrote to me on May 19, 2010 stating she had to flee Bangkok because it was on fire.

Julia Ferdinand, a Production Coordinator for The Eyes of Thailand who is based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, confirmed the fires in Bangkok and emailed me the following:

it’s a disaster area down there [in Bangkok]. more than 35 building sites have had fires. some very large buildings burnt to the ground. been following journos on the scene via twitter… the thai Prime Minister forced the line with the protesters and the military broke through the protesters barracaded encampment down in a business area of bangkok. not sure how much of this has been on the news for you.
several of the leaders of the movement turned themselves in to authorities yesterday, which sparked a backlash and fresh violence throughout the country. in 6 or so, other areas provincial gov’t halls were burnt to the ground. here in chiang mai, they set a fire on the bridge not far from my house and tried.. i don’t know how successfully to burn the govenor’s house.

we don’t know yet if there is civil war as such. it’s a little early to tell. the movement may calm down and appear at a later time.. or it might end.. too soon to tell.

chiang mai is definitely better off than bangkok. standing with the crowd of people yesterday.. all of us were shocked to see anything like it here. really dumbfounded.

As I learn more about the situation, Soraida, Julia and the elephants at FAE’s Elephant Hospital, I will let you know.

For now, please check out the following links:

Reuters AlertNet’s Conflict Time Line

The PSA Blog: As Bangkok Burns, Thailand’s Conflict Between the Red Shirts and the Abhisit Government Deepens

Newsweek: It’s not Just Red and Yellow

-Windy Borman

Director/Producer, The Eyes of Thailand