You Burn Ma Mall
June 17, 2010 3:33 PM   Subscribe

In May of this year political protests in Thailand turned violent. Somewhere around 100 people were killed, the streets burned, and the political stability of Thailand came into question. Additionally, Thailand's largest mall burned down. Thai teenagers, who may not care about politics, are not happy.

Previously . (And I hope I didn't offend anyone, I think this says something about war and how different sectors of society experience it. I just don't know what it says.
posted by joey blank (20 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- cortex

Here is a video interview with a professor of mine: Judy Woodruff talks to Richard Doner, a professor of political science at Emory University, for more on the politics behind the "red shirt" movement.
posted by andoatnp at 3:51 PM on June 17, 2010

I'm guessing most of the rural Reshirts couldn't really afford to shop there very often. "Where will I get my Gucci now" probably isn't a lyric that really appeals to the people who supported Thaksin.
posted by delmoi at 3:52 PM on June 17, 2010

Direct link to the YouTube video, which has the comment: It's a pity to see such wonderful shopping venues perish in flames.

The usage of English around the world is interesting. Without knowing more on who wrote that, I think it's a choice of words that few folks from North America, the UK or Australia would choose. The wiki entry for "Shopping mall" leads with: "A shopping mall, shopping centre or shopping precinct is one or more buildings..." and nary a mention of "venues." And "perish in flames" is almost lyrical.

Why yes, this plate of beans is absolutely scrumptious. Perhaps even delectable.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:52 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Central World? Meh, it's no MBK.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:32 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Lots of photos and on-the-scene analysis from this expatriate. Interesting to watch him shift from slightly pro-red to neutral to decidedly anti-red by the end of his series.
posted by telstar at 4:38 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Central World? Meh, it's no MBK.

Ha, my first thought upon seeing this FPP was: "oh, wow, MBK is gone? Crazy!"

Note that I'm not much of a mall-goer here in the states, but the wealthy folk of Bangkok built some truly impressive malls. When I was in Bangkok, it was summer and I would often go to MBK just for some aircon.
posted by lunasol at 5:30 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dunno if it means anything, but FluffyPinkMusic's youtube profile says she's from the United States. I think her song is more of a semi-ironic commentary on a distant event than the feelings of a Thai teenager.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:39 PM on June 17, 2010

telstar, you might want to throw a NSFW when linking to stickman. Ads for nude shows in Bangkok aren't the kind of thing I want to accidently see at work. (I don't have user level access to this computer. Installing things is a no-no, so ad-block won't work.)
posted by Ghidorah at 5:42 PM on June 17, 2010

the wealthy folk of Bangkok built some truly impressive malls.

Siam Paragon was the crazy one. You don't often see Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Lotus showrooms in a mall.
posted by smackfu at 5:48 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I always felt like my backpacker footwear was horribly soiling the squeaky marble flooring of the Siam Paragon, as I walked uncomfortably past all those supercar showrooms...
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:13 PM on June 17, 2010

My favourite memory of the luxury supermalls in Bangkok was the Toast stall in the food court. This crunchy foreign delicacy would tempt you with both familiar traditional flavourings (chilli paste) and served with more exotic condiments (peanut butter and jelly/jam). All at a premium price of course.
posted by Bwithh at 9:03 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think the youtube video in the post is made by a foreign tourist or expat, not a Thai person.
One of the memories described is about the first time they had pandan juice (nam bai toey) was at the mall, as if that was an exotic, special experience. But it would be a traditional drink for a Thai, easily bought at a common street market or ordinary supermarket.
posted by Bwithh at 9:12 PM on June 17, 2010

NSFW? Hey, those girls are working.
posted by telstar at 10:23 PM on June 17, 2010

Is Central World the one with all the massive fish tanks in the food court? Best. Aquariums. Ever.
posted by Wantok at 10:33 PM on June 17, 2010

Friend of mine has been living in Bangkok for about five years now. He's decidedly anti-red...considering that the current government of Thailand was installed by coup, I'm a little disturbed by that.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:45 PM on June 17, 2010

At the time I went to visit Bangkok, I was living about five minutes' walk from Rodeo Drive. As you drove down Wilshire, the stores just became more extravagant and exotic and exclusive. I'd also spent time in Europe, gaping a bit at the high end shops and the snotty salespeople that Madrid, especially, seems good at producing in significant quantity.

Then I got to Siam Paragon. Truly, that mall is not intended for 97% of Thailand. The fact that I was there with someone that represents the other 3% just made it that extra bit more...interesting. Siam Paragon serves, to my mind, as a very vivid representation of the wealth inequities in Thailand.

Central World, according to the ever reliable (hah!) Wikipedia, was intended for more of a middle class market. Never having been there, I couldn't say. I will say, though, that the teenager in the YT video does not seem to be particularly Thai to me. There are, after all, plenty of foreigners who liked that mall just as much as Thais did.
posted by librarylis at 12:03 AM on June 18, 2010

Central World and Siam Paragon are worlds apart. Siam Paragon almost makes even Rodeo Drive look slumish. :-)

Central World was not a place where the average Thai could shop but it was aimed more at middle-class Bangkok urbanites and visiting foreigners. It was the second largest shopping center in SEA.

While it was still out of range for many Thais it wasn't off-limits to them. Many Thais went there for the restaurants. Students loved to hang out at KFC, McDonalds, and other western fast food places in the mall.

Additionally, Central World always seemed to have things going on there. They had a balloon sculpture festival where the entire bottom floor was filled with 20 foot high castles, dragons, and other figures made entirely out of balloons. In the winter they dressed the place up beautifully and had massive Christmas decorations. Thais loved coming down there and taking photos in front of all of the decorations. They also used to set up a massive beer festival during the winter months and have live bands and other entertainment . . . all for the price of a pitcher of beer.

I don't believe that it was burned down as any sort of symbolic gesture. It will be missed by rich, middle-class, and poor Thais alike.
posted by billman at 8:45 PM on June 18, 2010

@Jimmy Havok (and others) . . . the situation in Thailand is far more complex than rich vs. poor. Remember that the ultimate leader of the red shirt movement is one of the richest men in Thailand.

I lived in the heart of Ratchaprasong about a 5 min walk from Central World. The red shirts took over my entire neighborhood. I had showering stations and portapotties sitting right outside of my apartment building.

I mixed amongst the protesters on a daily basis. I ate in their street side food stalls and tried to get out at least once a week and take photos of them and what was going on.

I mention all of that just to give some backdrop. Many of the rank and file demonstrators were peaceful and really believed that they were fighting for democracy. But at the same time they couldn't even answer basic questions about things like "What does democracy mean to you?"

What was going on is that while they had real grievances that should be addressed they were being used by Thaksin to get back into power. The red shirt leaders told them 24 hours a day (literally, they had loudspeakers broadcasting propaganda 24/7) that they were being denied democracy, that the government was evil, that the army was bloodthirsty and wanted to kill them, etc, etc, etc. The protesters were good at repeating what they were told but when you asked about anything beyond that they had no answers.

The red shirt leaders were simply playing on the feelings of the people for their own political agenda. The leadership couldn't give a damn about democracy. That's why when the PM offered them everything they were asking for but on a different (and more realistic) timeframe they refused. The purpose of the protests was to topple the government. It had nothing to do with reforms.

And when they turned down the offers by the PM that's when they lost a lot of popular backing from people who were sympathetic towards the red shirts. It became very obvious that none of this had been about democratic reforms. This was completely about getting Thaksin back into power.
posted by billman at 9:05 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Note that, like him or not, Thaksin Shinawatra was elected and then illegally overthrown. Also that the police did shoot quite a few people. So those parts of the propaganda were true enough, at least from this distance.

Were the people on the other side being any better informed?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:01 PM on June 18, 2010

Well, Thaksin Shinawatra, like him or not, is also a convicted criminal. Yes, he did a lot for the poor but only while he was looting the country for billions.

Part of the reason he was thrown out in a coup was that he was actively stacking the government, judiciary, and the army with his own people in such a way that began to worry many that he was staging his own coup from the inside. That's why any talk about democracy and Thaksin in the same sentence often causes laughter from anyone who follows Thai politics very closely. He was putting in place all of the mechanisms for a dictatorship.

To be honest, he could have been a great, great leader. Maybe one of the best. But once he saw how easy it was to consolidate power and how throwing a few crumbs to the poor would guarantee popular support he became a very dangerous man.

As far as police shooting . . . not exactly. The police sat on the sidelines. The army shot people. And all things considered the number of deaths were quite low considering they were dislodging people who had become entrenched in a residential and shopping neighborhood.

But, what may not have filtered back in the BBC and CNN coverage (btw, both news organizations are now very hated in Thailand for completely misreporting the crisis) are videos like the one where an army truck was stopped by red shirt protesters and the soldiers, though armed with M16 rifles, wai'd (Thai show of respect) the people pulling them from their vehicle and allowed the protesters to beat them without using their weapons.

Nor did I see a lot of coverage - except on Al Jazeera - of red shirt protesters carrying hand guns, automatic rifles, and rocket launchers.

In the end, both sides need to take responsibility for better representing the poor. And bringing back Thaksin or turning this into an overly simplistic rich vs. poor debate will not bring about the kinds of changes that need to happen.
posted by billman at 12:53 AM on June 19, 2010

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