Erawan Shrine: sculpting away the unhappiness

Loss of life, loss of face: thoughts on the Bangkok bombing

A few days later, the scenes from ground zero in Bangkok have a surface, mundane peacefulness. A bomb kills 20, hurts 100, yet there’s not a police officer in sight. No barriers between passersby and crime scene. Only midnight workers pouring concrete. Sprucing. Shining. Sculpting over the blast crater and the gruesome unease that overtook the city only days before. Often the case in Thailand, restoring the veneer of happiness takes priority over the painful practicalities of solution seeking. Investigative integrity subdued by the cultural and political habits of tossing veils over inconvenient miseries. A new erratic theory shoots from government lips daily, blaming anyone who might be politically convenient. Journalists find bomb remnants and are waved aside as meddling know-nothings. Detailed imaginary plot points based on little but government self-interest ping from official microphones, while the real investigation is hopelessly mismanaged and manipulated.

Only one hour after the blast on Monday, my home-bound Skytrain whizzed overhead, a few metres above the scattered body parts and blackened artifacts. I looked down on police and smoke and fear and chaos — and crowds crying and posing for selfies framed by misery. I wondered how my fellow passengers and I could be allowed such proximity to fresh red embers and terrified confusion.

We’ve seen this play out on different stages in Thailand. The same strategies used to paint a smile on political unrest, protests, military violence, corruption, coups. The urge to defy painful circumstances with a brave face is admirable. But sometimes justice is more important than facade and truth is more important than convenience.

My thoughts are with those who died, those who loved them, and those who struggle for all kinds of justice in this great and frustrating country.

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