Henning Mankell: When a Crime Writer becomes part of the Story
On Friday I will
post a blog titled: Henning Mankell: When a Crime Writer becomes part of the
Here's a preview:
Mankell has become part of the Israeli commando story. The
reports that Mankell has urged global sanctions on Israel.
Telegraph continues with this quote from Mankell: "I can promise there was
not a single weapon aboard the ships," he told an Expressen reporter who was
returning to Sweden with him after the writer had been deported by
FILTERS IN THE BRAVE NEW WORLD OF EBOOK PUBLISHING
I have been in a
conversation with author Jonathan Hayes on Facebook and others have joined our
discussion about filters in book publishing and what they may look like in the
Ebooks and epublishing has
many people talking about leveling the playing field. The adult equivalent of
“No Child Left Behind” idea that allows everyone to become an author. To start
with first principles, in Canada and America people have a history of
"democratization of expression.” There has been censorship in the past but in
reality people today can pretty write whatever they want.
What is new is that they
can “publish” whatever they write. By publish I mean the
Internet has opened an easily accessible public forum to make available written
expression. It can be a blog, a tweet, or a book.
No one would deny that
this is a good thing. It does offer more choice. And it gives a lot of people
options and opportunities they may not have had under the old print model of
The problem is that many
of those shouting from the rooftops are making assumptions that riches await
self-published authors or at least a comfortable living. This is largely a
delusion. Not even all those who are conventionally published are able to make a
comfortable living from the sales of their books.
The digital world hasn’t
come to grips how markets go about the monetization of expression. It doesn’t
follow that because an inexpensive digital platform exist for all writers that
the content of what they write and publish can be converted into money.
Digital book accessibility
and monetization of digital books are largely conflated in discussion of the
changes in publishing. As time moves on, most people will discover that the
overwhelming amount of digital expression has no commercial value. It is
important to emphasis the commercial aspect of this conclusion. The substance
may be brilliant, insightful, memorable, and wonderful but there is no market
for the expression.
The new technology won't
change the fact most of what is produced is valueless except to a handful of
friends and relatives. The same dead end likely will be where your uncle’s
guitar playing and singing and your best friend’s paintings are found. We admire
and love these artistic expressions because we love and know these people. But
the larger world with money in the pocket has millions of choices. And from the
way the money is allocated, it appears that most of these people pretty much
choose the same artists, writers, painters, etc.
But I have written a
really good book and not one agent is interested. Or I have an agent and not one
publisher is interested. Why not short circuit these narrow-minded fools and go
straight to a public that will immediately see how wrong these gatekeepers are
in ignoring me?
That’s a common state of
mind that leads to a self-published digital book. Obviously there are other
intentions and motives to going digital with a book. But I am only talking about
where the intention is to convert the expression delivered to the digital
platform into hard, cold cash.
I start with the premise
that digital book publishers and sellers are no different than YouTube. But they
perform a good song and dance as if they are putting the self-published author
onto to American Idol.
YouTube is largely the
world of unfiltered videos and films.
To filter or not to filter
isn’t the question. There is no way to create an audience without a filter.
There is the fallback position of ‘word of mouth’ and, yes, sometimes, word of
mouth makes a song, a book, or movie go viral. Those are the black swans. We
never know when one will appear. Only that sooner or later one inevitably does.
If you seek to monetize a book based on word of mouth or a black swan event, you
will likely be in for a very long wait. That’s not how markets or audience are
created in the real world of publishing.
Filters are imperfect
whether books, music, film, painting, poetry; we can all agree on this,
especially if the filter won’t let us through. But we are about to experience a
book publishing/selling that promises a world without filters. That is a
Down the road, some smart
new generation Jeff Bezo will create the equivalent of American Idol for books,
reinventing the filter system for the digital age. No one will find it pleasant
swimming in a vast ocean of unfiltered ebooks.
What may emerge is a
literary oligarchy that makes 80% of publishing revenues, and 20% goes to the
remaining 99% consisting of millions of authors. Some would say that is pretty
much the existing state of affairs. But what digital publishing may do is cause
midlist authors to go extinct. They will disappear. The future for authors will
be Investment bankers' kind of returns for a handful, and no way to pay the
mortgage for the rest.
It is delusional to
believe a large audience can form without the expression having gone through
some filtering system. Filters are those we trust to judge quality and talent.
Does anyone have the time to read hundreds of unfiltered free ebooks to make an
assessment alone? Does a post on a blog or amazon comments reproduce the current
filtering system? People will have their own opinion on these
For me, sustained quality
is unequally distributed. True talent is a sparely distributed asset. The same
limitations apply when considering the story, voice, and characterization in a
book. The book reading audience pays money for a book, in part, because they can
rely on the fact that the commercially published book. That means the author has
received an advance has worked its way through many separate hard nosed
professionals who ask whether this book will earn back what is being paid to the
author. Do publishing professionals make mistakes? Of course they do. Everyone
has a book they bought from a big New York publisher with blurbs from all kinds
of famous authors but feel let down. The story didn’t work for them. They threw
it against the wall. The temptation is to say the whole filtering system is a
scam, stupid, doesn’t work, is elitist, etc. Instead of accepting the current
filtering system in publishing, like with all man made systems, will sometimes
fail. An audience without some system to filter books isn't an audience but more
like a vast number of hunter gather bands with no one to lead them to the game.
Or finding coming up on game by ourselves we will have no expert to help us
distinguish between an elephant, a tiger or a mouse. That’s a dangerous way to
go hunting. Before you decide on a meal, it is wise to make certain it is
A good cover attracts
people to a book. Cover art has a new life in the digital world where so much of
the cutting edge in publishing is happening.
Ebooks are greatest game
changer in publishing to have happened in the past several years. Physical
bookstores are slowly being replaced in the digital world of booksellers. These
books are made from paper. They are electronic. They are called ebooks. By now
most people will have heard about Kindle, iphone, ipad, Nook, Sony and other
readers that allow readers to download books and read them from a computer or
smart phone. Millions of people have bought one of these devices and have
downloaded books on them. Kindle is the clear winning horse so far in this
The new technology is
important for authors who live and write far outside the commute distance to New
York or London. I write and live in Bangkok. My long time publisher in Thailand,
Heaven Lake Press must deal with shipping costs when selling physical books to
other countries. The cost and delays inevitable through international shipping
makes it more difficult to bring in new readers. Not to mention that tourist who
have been a major market for my books are an extinct species in Thailand after
the events over the last week or so.
Ebooks are a way to reach
readers who would otherwise not come across my books. And who may never find
themselves in Thailand.
Because of contractual reasons, four books in the Vincent Calvino series
are handled out of New York. The other books in the Calvino series remain not
available on kindle at all as they are also caught up in the contracts. Later
this year, that situation should change. Thai-based publisher Heaven Lake Press
has converted my non-Calvino books into ebooks. HLP has been doing a great job
getting my books listed for sale on amazon and other digital bookstores.
The word, however, needs
to get out. That’s where you come in. Tell a friend about the books next time
someone mentions that they’ve bought a Kindle or Sony reader.
In traditional publishing,
once a book cover was locked in that was pretty much it. That was the only cover
you would ever see for that edition of the book. Covers are expensive to
produce. They require talent and money and time to do right.
Heaven Lake Press has been
coming up with new covers for the literary/commercial novels. An example is the
kindle cover for A Bewitching Smile:
I like the cover and would
invite you to drop me an email and tell me your thoughts about the new cover for
A Bewitching Smile as well as your experience with ebooks. Do you like them? Do
you buy them? Is it a different kind of reading experience? Does the lower price
for an email (not to mention the instant delivery) appeal to you?
One feature of the current
climate in Thailand is that rather than trying to see another side’s point of
view, people seeking such an examination are shouted down. The heightened state
of emotion translates as either you are on one side or the other. If you try to
seek nuance you may be attacked as being pro-government or pro-red, depending on
what incident, statement, rumour, or policy you choose to examine.
This is a difficult time
for free speech. The only speech recognized as ‘free’ is that speech which
supports the side of the argument. The reality is that free speech means you dig
into the facts and circumstances and try to keep the emotions out of that
search. Perhaps what has happened is so close, raw, and open that even though
fires are out, the anger, hatred and outrage continue to burn.
There has been sufficient
miscalculation, misjudgment, and breakdown of communication, leadership and
conflict resolution that almost no one on either side comes out of this
untainted. The fire of these emotions may be slowly burning out. Tuesday 25th
May can be benchmarked as the start of dialogue and a reaching out to address
Atiya Achakulwisut writing
in the Bangkok Post wrote: “I believe both main parties to the conflict had a
role in complicating the situation.” She goes on to talk about how the protest
and rampage has upended many of the truths accepted by Thais. She walked among
the Reds and saw that it is a mixed group: radicals intend on violence and
people who feel they’ve been excluded politically, socially and economically.
The major problem the Reds
have had and will continue to have is their association through money and
leadership and agenda with the former prime minister Thaksin. There is a deep
feeling that Thaksin has been pulling the strings behind stage. It is difficult
for many people to accept that Thaksin’s real agenda is expanding democracy in
Thailand. Until the Reds have freed themselves from their connection to Thaksin,
it will remain difficult for the Reds to gain politically. Simply put: there is
a large segment of the population that will resist any attempt by the Reds to
bring Thaksin back to power. Given Thaksin’s track record while prime minister,
it is not unreasonable for many people to fear tyranny in the name of democracy
would be the end result for Thailand if Thaksin succeeded in returning to
Former Prime Minister
Anand Panyarachun, has called for an independent and credible investigation of
recent events. In Khun Anand’s view: “Whatever view one may hold about
recent events, the grievances expressed by many of the demonstrators are valid.
We need to have in place a comprehensive range of measures to tackle the
following key challenges: 1. disparities in distribution; 2. deprivation of
capabilities; and 3. inequalities in access and opportunities.”
This is the beginning of
an important political conversation. As Khun Anand goes on to say, “Change is
inevitable.” Embracing that concept is the first step toward building a new
political consensus. Khun Anand has pointed the way forward. Hopefully all sides
are listening and the shouting down of anyone who isn’t pushing
"partisan politics" will end and voices of reason will move the country
ahead. Khun Anand has challenged both sides to enter into a genuine dialogue and
that is the way toward an eventual political solution.
Introspection is a valuable asset
in the governed as well as in those who govern them. Introspection along with
consensus is a good definition of how the engines of democracy work. But in 2010
introspection and consensus are threatened with extinction and this is happening
just before the public conversation that needs to be had if people are going to
move on. Otherwise we will risk being permanently stranded in the dead zone
between existential nihilism and sophism with no peaceful exit.
Change is difficult. But Political
change is the most more difficult. I was reading about the Tea Party and the
impact that is having on American politics. People rally around the Tea Party
appear at this distance filled with distrust, suspicion, and anger. It may be
that worldwide we have entered into an age of discontent. Everyone rushes to
open their windows and scream that they can’t take it any more.
on important domestic and foreign policy issues is becoming almost impossible to
achieve. Someone with clout or a voting demographic group objects and the result
is the proposed law or regulation is sidelined. The whole democratic process
comes to a grinding halt. Without large areas in which people can agree, the
public space where people meet and debate with respect for each other's views
narrows, and belligerence and conflict fills the gap.
Hatred becomes a public poisoning
of enemy wells spectacle. When there is a breakdown of political consensus
sending in the military with live ammo and guns to restore public order is only
a temporary solution. It is not a long-term solution to the fundamental
What are those problems? I can
think of three, and there are no doubt others that can be added to the
How does one restore public trust? How does political legitimacy
continue if consensus and compromise lose their value? How do people get past
hatred and start talking to each other as if each person's view
I wish had the answers.
I am indebted to my friend Chris
Runckel http://www.business-in-asia.com/ who raised the question as to
whether introspection would follow the week of violence.
For the last week I’ve lived near
one of the front line areas in the conflict between the Government/Military and
the Red Shirted protesters. On 15th, 16th and 17th May I walked along Rama IV,
filming and talking with Red shirt supporters, protesters, onlookers. It was a
mixed bag of people of varying degrees of commitment to the Red cause—whatever
that might be—as the policies and principles appear to be fractured among a
number of factions. There are those wishing to reinstall Thaksin as prime
minister. Others are bound by a larger social justice and equality
Day 3 Street War Bangkok 17th May 2010 Bangkok Rama IV barricades
On Monday 17th May I
returned to film and interview people who’d gathered in and along Rama IV Road
and the Expressway area. By the third day of fighting, it was less frightening
being on the street. It is strange how we adapt to what is a dangerous,
uncertain environment. The first thing people learn is to distinguish the sound
of firecrackers and from the sound of bullets coming from shotguns, M16s, M79s
and AK47s weapons. These weapons as well as the firecrackers were used at some
stage in during the street conflict. I didn’t see any war weapons on the
17th May. That doesn’t mean they Red side wasn’t armed. It means I
personally didn’t see them.
Bankgok Rama IV Road Monday
17 May 2010
There was a lot of firecrackers
throwing by members of the crowd. Each time the firecracker went off in a
forward position. I didn’t see any firecrackers thrown near the crowded areas.
The Red Shirts at the most forward barricades were the main people throwing
Firecrackers are a quite effective
method to keep the attention and sympathy of the crowd. It gives a communal
feeling of being ‘under fire’. With only the occasional round from a gun—and
those could have been rubber bullets or live rounds—it would have easy for the
crowd to become bored. Firecrackers kept the crowd focused. It also kept down
idle conversation. Firecrackers charge up the emotions and keep them running
high. The crowd under ‘fire’ bonds into a group experiencing a common threat.
When on the front line of a conflict, the temptation is to see those around you
as in the same vulnerable situation. For anyone organizing a mass political
movement firecrackers must be one of their best devices. They are cheap. They
are scary (as many people think that a bomb has gone off). And they are
provocative acts to unsettle the soldiers who aren’t quite certain if it was a
bomb or firecracker.
View from the barricades
looking out on no man’s land
Bankgok Rama IV Road Monday
17 May 2010
After a while in the street, most
of the crowd learnt to distinguish between lethal ordnance and firecrackers.
They joke with each other, ‘Just a firecracker. Not to worry.’ It is good
training for people to practice what needs to be done when under fire. That is
one important lesson: seek a secure position and stay there. What is a secure
position differs. Here’s a guy who found a nice chair and relax.
Young Thai man drinking
Bankgok Rama IV Road Monday
17 May 2010
The no man’s land on Rama IV
running from the Expressway to Ngnam Duphli was empty. I’d walked that stretch
easily on 16th May. On Monday, the following day, it become far more
dangerous to venture out and the crowds sheltered in clumps under the expressway
As on previous days, old Tires were
gathered, trucked to the front and used to make or reinforce barricades. The Red
Shirts had pickup trucks loading and unloading the tires.
Tyres barricade Expressway
Bankgok Rama IV Road Monday
17 May 2010
On the 17th May a number
of young people were also in the crowd. Knowing what it takes to drag kids from
a TV or computer screen, the Rama IV drama must have had considerable pull for
Bangkok Youth at the
Bankgok Rama IV Road Monday
17 May 2010
The memories of
these events in May will live on the memory of those who are in these
photographs. For the youths in the crowd, the fighting, bloodshed, gunfire will
be formative in their development. No one has been untouched by the events. Raw,
open, swollen like a sore, the wounds inflicted on those involved will take time
THE FIRE OUTSIDE MY WINDOW THE FIRE INSIDE MY HEART
I am writing this 15 minutes before
the curfew starts on Wednesday 19 May 2010. This morning I awoke to gunfire. The
crack of an M16, and if you know that sound, then you understand this isn’t the
way to start your day. This is the fourth day I have gone to sleep with the
sound of gunfire in the background and woken up to the same sound.
It has been a long day. The phone
never stopped; neither did emails from readers around the world. For their
support and thoughts I am grateful. I appreciate your concern for my safety.
Around 2.00 p.m. I had call that
something was burning at Asoke and Sukhumvit Roads—this is a major intersection
in Bangkok—and I raced out, got on the back of a motorcycle taxi and arrived to
find tires ablaze on Asoke.
Thirty meters ahead and at the
intersection, one BMA bus blocked one lane. Another bus, empty, arrived a few
minutes later and parked to block the other lanes. That part of the road was
By now, up the road and beside
Queen Sirikit Convention Centre, is the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) and it
had been set on fire. I raced over to that location. A large mob had gathered on
the pavement, spilling into the street. Flames shot out of the front lobby of
the SET at three different sections. Within twenty minutes, three fire trucks
arrived but were chased away by the stone throwing mob. Behind the SET, the
Electricity Board of Thailand had a building that was also on fire.
More protesters were shot in
Bangkok during the day. It is difficult to no how this will end, and when it
ends, or what will come next. The events over the last month have left a wound
in the heart of many. It is five minutes to curfew. Then it is shoot on sight.
This is the difference between a crime novel and a war zone. In a crime zone,
the criminals operate inside their own community, trying to outsmart each other
and the cops.
In a war zone, the police no longer
functions and the whole community divides into bitter enemies, forgetting their
common humanity, and seeking revenge. Hatred and violence have become the
Siamese twins of destruction. These forces have been set free of the constraints
that normally contain them. I have seen their faces on the streets. Now it is
time go. It is 8.00 p.m. Curfew has started.
When you read this, it will be
another day for you. Stop for one second, look in the mirror and let yourself
know exactly lucky you are to be alive, away from the gunfire, burning buildings
and the constant fear. You are the lucky ones.
The SET was torched by
demonstrators in the late afternoon. After 30 minutes fire trucks (3 in number)
came screaming down Asoke. Demonstrators met them with stones. They retreated. A
few minutes later the sizeable crowd started to run as rumours of the army
Here are two shots
of the building burning. Behind the SET is electrical authority. It was also
set on fire. Power is out in my building. Don't think it will be possible file
Wish us all luck in Bangkok. In two hours dusk will fall. It
is a long ways from being over
ASKOKE AND SUKHUMVIT ROAD BANGKOK Wednesday 19 May 2010
Dispatch from Sukhumvit
I returned moments ago from the
intersection at Asoke and Sukhumvit Road.
Tires burnt in the middle of the
lanes carrying traffic toward Klong Toey. Those lanes are blocked with debris
and burning tires.
Bangkok Asoke Sukhumvit
Road 19 May 2010 2.15 p.m.
Crowds lined the streets along the
Asoke side of the Exchange Tower. Uniformed and plainclothes police directing
traffic at the intersection. People running around with cell phone cameras
taking snapshots. Technology has resulted in some of the best coverage of urban
street confrontation and fighting. And a number of foreign and local journalists
have been shot. An Italian journalist was killed today.
Bangkok Asoke Sukhumvit
Road 19 May 2010 2.16 p.m.
A lot of people are familiar with
this major intersection in Bangkok. There are many luxury hotels, restaurants
stretching from Asoke (Soi 23) to Soi 4 (Soi Nana). Normally it would be filled
with vendors. But today that is not the case.
Bangkok Asoke Sukhumvit
Road 19 May 2010 2.18 p.m.
When I arrived at the intersection
one blue and white BMA bus blocked on outbound lane from Rama IV. A few minutes
later, another empty blue and white bus arrived. It was driven by a man wearing
a white mask and he received scattered applause from the crowd looking on as he
nosed the bus against the one already abandoned in the intersection. That
successfully blocked the lanes leading to Rama IV. Though the inbound lanes to
Rama IV remained open as of 2.30 p.m.
Bangkok Asoke Sukhumvit
Road 19 May 2010 2.25 p.m.
Meanwhile huge columns of
smoke pouring out of the Rama IV area nearby. Can’t get any motorcycle taxi
driver to take me to Rama IV. They say there is too much shooting. This is one
of those times when you listen to the driver.
Day 2 Street War Bangkok 16th May 2010 Bangkok Rama IV barricades
By Sunday the amount of small arm fire on Rama IV had increased from the day before. The scene was similar to Saturday. Groups of people who had gathered inside shophouse doorways, along the road for about one kilometer, and the hardcore group of Red shirted protesters who manned the barricades and kept the tyres rolling toward the front line.
Bangkok Rama IV Road Saturday 16 May 2010
With each new crack of bullet, the people in the street ducked behind whatever protection was available: a motorcycle, a street sign, doorway, taxi, or knelt down on the street. On Sunday I heard members of the crowd talking about snipers. Crowds have a way of passing along information. Though there is no reliable way of knowing the accuracy of such information. When there is a great amount of fear, and the sound of gunfire, there is a ready-made audience waiting for a coherent explanation. In this case, the story spread about snipers.
Rumours circle like helicopters above the crowd. No one quite knows where or how they are started, but the rumours on the street become a kind of atmosphere that surrounds crowds who breathe them in. People are so hungry for information, anything that sounds supportive of their side, and gives at least a plausible explanation, is embraced. Emotions run high on both sides. Positions and attitudes have hardened. People look to confirm their bias, and discount anything that doesn’t. But that is a universal aspect of human nature. You don’t need to speak or understand Thai to understand what is playing out at the street level is the results of highly charged emotions. People are on fire with hatred and fear. It isn’t just Bangkok that is burning; it’s Bangkok’s people on both sides are burning inside. People on the street aren’t thinking through such intellectual prism, weighing and analyzing, what they hear, they grab it like a drowning man grabs a life jacket.
I have a number of video clips where you can hear the crack of gunfire and explosions. I am having technical problems in getting them put up. I’m trying to sort them out and will post the footage as soon as I can.
Bangkok Rama IV Road Saturday 16 May 2010
The war zone is also a rite of passage for many young Thai men. On motorcycles, they race back from the expressway to the barricades near Bon Kai. In the distance you can see the crowd standing under the Expressway overpass. The closer to the front line, the closer to the area where the most committed among the demonstrators—mainly young men—clumped together against the tyres on the barricade. Too young to understand the risks they are facing. That is one definition of youth—putting yourself in the line of fire because you believe that your cause is just and you are immortal.
I am not certain what psychological scars all of this is going to leave on youths who have been involved in the violence. People react differently in war zones. But no one is unaffected by the scenes of violence, the sounds of gunfire and explosions, the smoke, the fear and danger, and the image of people who are just like them who have been shot. They will likely need counseling to cope with what they’ve witnessed. Or they could simply be left to tough it out on their own. However this conflict ends, and it will end as all conflicts do, the authorities will need to find ways to heal the wounds of the living. And the wounds of the heart are the most difficult ones to manage. It will take wisdom and understanding—and empathy—for anything like trust can be reestablished.
UPDATE: Wednesday morning 19 May 2010
Last night after midnight, the sound of small arms fired intensified in the Klong Toey/Rama IV area. I didn’t hear machine gun or automatic firing. The rounds were spaced as if the shooter was concentrating on a specific target and squeezing off two, three, four rounds. Then there was a lull, a wonderful couple of minutes of silence, punctured by more firing. The shooting continued for a couple of hours. What is amazing is how much gunfire there has been and how relatively speaking how few people killed. This is apparently true in most wars. Thousands of rounds are shot for every person who is on the receiving end of a bullet. This isn’t to discount the horror of someone who has been hit. I’ve seen someone who was shot and it is sickening.
This morning, from my balcony there appeared to be many more fires than on previous days. Plumes of smoke rise from Rama IV/Expressway area and small arms firing continues off and on. Also smoke coming from fires in several other locations in the city. I am on the 11th floor of a building that commands a view of areas that include Sukhumvit, Rama IV, Silom, and Ratchadaprasong Road, and from local as well as CNN and BBC reports, an escalation of fighting had happened overnight. I can see with my own eyes a horizon of smoke casting a pail over the battlefield that is Bangkok.
On 15th, 16th, and 17th May for around one and half hours I filmed and interviewed people who had gathered along Rama IV Road from the Rachadapiesek or Klong Toey intersection to Soi Ngam Dupli. As the authorities tightened the noose around Rachadaprasong, a second front opened along Rama IV, including a makeshift stage and speakers, microphones, and sound system.
I am not a professional photographer. Indeed I am not even a very good amateur photographer. What I’ve tried to do is capture the mood of people who have gathered around one of the main sites where Reds and the Security Forces have clashed. People in the outside world can glimpse for themselves some of the faces in the crowd—in other words what do the people on the scene look like—and the chaos surrounding the street barricades. Each day a community of onlookers have gathered drawn by the spectacle of violence, fire, and explosions.
Bangkok Rama IV 15 May 2010 Smoke from barricade. Shot from Expressway entrance area on Rama IV looking toward Lumpini
The photographs are taken behind the Red lines. To be balanced, you also need to look at photographs taken by others from behind the Security Forces lines. Thais confronting Thais doesn’t make anyone on either side less human, less deserving of life.
Bangkok Rama IV 15 May 2010 People near Expressway entrance on Rama IV
The crowd included people from the neighborhood, Red sympathizers, onlookers who’d come to have a look, and hardcore Reds who built and manned the barricades. The press tends to lump the entire crowd as having a single mind, motivation, and determination. In reality, at ground level, people gather in tight knots, talking, watching, and eating. The moth to the flame attraction of violence pulls people closer. Nothing like hearing gunfire to make you feel closer to the people around you.
During this time, I saw only one person who apparently had been shot. There were lots of explosions. As dramatic as that seems, most of these were firecrackers thrown by Red shirt supporters. I personally saw no one in the Red ranks who had firearms or explosives. That doesn’t mean they weren’t around. I just didn’t see any. I did see people with sticks, one guy with a five foot length of metal pole, and slingshots hanging from a couple of men’s back pockets. At front line barricades, I saw the slingshots used. Most of the men at the barricades kept their heads down, staying low as well.
Bangkok Rama IV 15 May 2010 near burning tire barricade on Rama IV
There was also the periodic sound of gunfire. A distinctive, nasty crack, an ugly sudden bullwhip snaps. Some of it was close. It was difficult to tell the location of the shooter or who was shooting. It might be presumed that the shooter was either a very bad shot or was seeking to keep people pinned down. Building barricades while being shot at is a slow process. I suspect if the shooter had intended to kill lots of people, he could have easily done so. The fact that the casualty rate was low suggests some kind of restraint is being exercised. A sniper could easily have been off dozens and dozens of people. That didn’t happen. But having said that said, people shot on Rama IV on 17th May. I can’t draw any conclusion for where the shooters were, who they were, or whether their purpose was to suppress the demonstrators without inflicting a large number of casualties.
Bangkok Rama IV 15 May 2010. Appears to be a bloodied fireman’s helmet with bullet hole through the front visor. Shot under Expressway overpass on Rama IV
The Rama IV Expressway entrance, the one to Bang Nah and the Port, was closed to traffic. A young Thai man took me up to the top of the ramp—about 200 meters from Rama IV—where there was a mountain of tires. Just under a dozen men worked to move tires (rolling them mostly) from one part of the ramp to a lower area, where other men loaded them on a waiting pickup. The pickup, after being fully loaded, shot down the ramp, into Rama IV, made a sharp left and headed to the front line. The crowd cheered as the gray pickup shot down the deserted stretch of Rama IV toward Soi Ngam Dupli. Once the pickup had delivered its load of tires near the barricades, it sped back through no man’s land to the Expressway entrance, back up the ramp, where more tires were loaded. This activity went on for the entire time I was in the area. The men were well organized, efficient, and determined.
I will start with the photographs from 15th May 2010. The photographs above were taken from 4.30 p.m. to around 6.30 p.m. on that Saturday. Over the next few days, I will post photos from 16th and 17th May. I will continue to return to Rama IV for additional coverage.
Bangkok Rama IV 15 May 2010. No man’s land on Rama IV
As you know Bangkok is under fire and on fire. I am posting on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/ChristopherGeorgeMoore?ref=profile#!/ChristopherGeorgeMoore?v=wall&ref=profile And also on Twitter: bangkokwriter00 Though with all the traffic is sometimes difficult to get on to Twitter. I've been at Rama IV and Expressway and have a fair amount of video and still footage from Saturday and Sunday. Will try and get some of it up once my IT person comes in. Sound of explosions from the direction of Rama IV as I write this.
Tourists checking into a five-star
Bangkok hotel or dining at an upscale restaurant will no doubt recall the
pleasure of receiving a traditional wai from the owner, headwaiter, serving
staff. Pleasure is the key experience, the pleasure of being recognized, being
special, being noticed—and all of it unearned. Such deference is the ultimate
free lunch. This is ‘deference lite’, the tourist edition. It is part of the
hospitality package like the complimentary arrival drink and fruit basket that
keeps tourists returning to Thailand.