02 December 2013. After months of demonstrations, and a week of massive anti government rallies, Thailand’s perplexing protests have finally turned violent. Regarded by many as a tragic inevitability, and undoubtedly by others as a desired escalation to help achieve their own goals, nobody in the city seems particularly surprised.
It’s not clear yet how far this will escalate but the signs, and the numerous and relatively recent historic comparisons, don’t bode well.
The first clashes happened yesterday outside Ramkhamhaeng University where anti government students were holding a protest, a stones throw away from the Thai national football stadium where pro government ‘red shirts’ were holding a huge rally.
Incongruously there were only a handful of police - despite the obvious potential for confrontations - positioned along the road between the two groups and who then did nothing when the fighting started.
The group first attacked an individual red shirt who was walking pass, and then later a city bus full of passengers. Smashing the windows and terrifying the passengers inside who could be seen pleading to their attackers to stop. They didn’t. The students threw heavy stones at the bus, hit it (and the passengers inside) with sticks, and tossed a number of loud flash bang type things under the wheels.
They attacked with a ferocity that was scary to witness. It went on for around five minutes until the bus could switch over to the other side of the road - which was now closed - and sped away.
Later that night, gun fire broke out and reports today said that four or five people were killed and scores injured during clashes that lasted well into the early hours of the morning.
Today’s events were something different and in most regards far less vicious although involving many more people. From late morning onwards, tens of thousands of protestors descended on police lines around Government House in Bangkok’s historic quarter.
As the crowds got closer, and started to dismantle the fortifications that the police had in place, tear gas canisters were tossed over the walls towards them. Most of the protestors dispersed, but a hardcore continued to fight for much of the day (and even smaller number all the way into the night).
Throughout the day police used water cannons, huge amounts of tear gas, and possibly rubber bullets (it was hard to tell in all the chaos). For their part, the protesters chucked stones, bottles, and tear gas canisters fired at them back at the police. It was a pretty standard affair really.
Tomorrow, it could all happen again. Or it could fizzle out. Or it could escalate. Nobody knows.
Thailand is one of the friendliest places on the planet to visit. A beautiful country but with a shameful history, revisited once again over the past few days and possibly in the days to follow. Hateful, vicious violence fueled by cynical, power hungry ‘elites’ on all sides who couldn’t care less that their goals are being achieved by the spilling of more Thai blood.
Today was meant to be ‘victory’ day for the protesters but despite some success in pushing back police, they are no where near their goal of displacing the government who show no signs of backing down.
Thailand’s violent political reality continues.
30 July 2013. According to those there in late 1988, the first Full Moon Party on Thailand's Koh Phangan was a peaceful gathering of travellers from around the world, the full moon providing the only light available at night on the remote island.
Today, 20,000 people regularly cram the shores of Haad Rin beach, attracted by cheap alcohol, readily available drugs and, of course, the lure of a party often referred to as a backpackers' rite of passage in Southeast Asia.
This month's party was typical of what it has become 25 years later. A tawdry scene of increasingly intoxicated 20-somethings, each holding onto their buckets of booze as they stumble along the beach for hours on end. As the sun rose, hidden behind a grey blanket of clouds, the night's excesses were laid bear. Bodies littered the beach, semi conscious, surrounded by broken bottles and plastic buckets.
Over the past few years there have been multiple reports of murders, sexual assault and widespread theft. Nothing serious was reported at this month's event, but the police tent on the beach - a new development recommended by the British Embassy - saw a steady stream of revellers in various states of distress throughout the night.
The following images are of one night on Haad Rin beach. Despite its many issues, Thailand's Full Moon Party remains quite the spectacle.
27 June 2013. After weeks of violent clashes between police and protesters across Turkey a new form of resistance has emerged. The Standing Man. Alone, and silent, Turkish performance artist Erdem Gunduz first stood, with his hands in his pockets, facing the Ataturk Cultural Centre in Taksim Square for eight hours.
Within days, the solitary figure was emulated by thousands across Turkey as Gunduz became the latest symbol of the ongoing resistance movement. The contrast with the images of tear gas clouds and water cannon could not have been greater. Faces obscured by masks and helmets were revealed to show expressions of quiet contemplation. Violent scenes are still occurring around Turkey, including in Istanbul once again this past weekend, but the Standing Man protests continue unabated.
The following images explore one aspect of the protest in Taksim Square, ongoing since before the communal standing took off. Public reading and informal education has been notable since the earliest days of the protest, but has since merged with the Standing Man to form "The Taksim Square Book Club". The chosen reading material of many of those who take their stand is reflective, in part, of the thoughtfulness of those who have chosen this motionless protest to express their discontent.