Thailand's 'Land of Smiles' Turns to Terror

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Barricades in Bangkok
Barricades in Bangkok Credit: Suthi Sucharittanonta
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Thailand, known to tourists as the "land of smiles," hasn't had much to cheer about lately.

The country is polarized between "yellow shirts," urban and educated Thais, including the military and business elite supporting King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's shaky government, and "red shirts," or rural supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The protests began in early March, which led to the cancellation of AdFest, one of Asia's top annual gatherings for the ad industry.

Over the past week, the dispute turned extremely violent. Anti-government protesters have taken over several square miles of Bangkok's commercial center. After weeks of stalled negotiations, the military is trying to regain the territory, and it is now using live ammunition.

Bangkok
Bangkok Credit: Suthi Sucharittanonta

Today, downtown Bangkok looks more like Baghdad than a modern, tourist-friendly Asian metropolis. Business in the capital has slowed to a standstill as gunfire and grenades rip through the city, costing dozens of lives as well as billions of dollars in lost revenue from commerce and tourism.

Below is a description of life in a city under siege by Suthisak Sucharittanonta, chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO Worldwide, Bangkok. Mr. Sucharittanonta, better known as "Khun Suthi," is one of the best-known creatives in Asia.

Suthisak Sucharittanonta
Suthisak Sucharittanonta

Saturday, April 10, 2010
Fierce clashes between red shirts protesters and Thai troops left 840 injured and 22 dead.

Thursday, May 13, 2010
We worked in the office as usual until the building manager told us to leave the office by 3 p.m. We received messages from insiders that army troops would take control of the mobs by Sunday. Twitter was flooded with warnings. Traffic froze, so I got out of my car and walked home. I saw many construction workers and motorbike taxis racing wildly towards the protesters' camp. At that point, I sensed violence would erupt soon.



Friday, May 14, 2010
In the early morning, I took photos from my balcony as usual, and heard gunshots. My family and I decided to leave our condo on Sathon Road. That night, chaos took root in many areas, including Saladaeng, Rajprasong, Sathon and Rama IV roads, including explosions and gunfire in front of BBDO's office building. Luckily, we'd already left.

Bangkok protests
Bangkok protests Credit: Tim Johnson

Saturday, May 15, 2010
I was sick of the news and tons of tweets flooding my time line, most of which were coming directly from news reporters from the clash areas. It made me clearly see how powerful social media is, compared to our country's free TV networks, which still show soap operas and stupid game shows.

Sunday, May 16, 2010
Loud blasts were heard around Bangkok's main business areas, but I'm sure God heard our prayers at Sunday mass.

Read Sucharittanonta's full diary on Adage.com.

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