As the protest, at least temporarily, died out the city goes back to its normality many things are left behind to be reorganized, collected, or just thrown in the trash. A battery of Bangkokians, driven by their love for the city and huge banners around the city with the script "Together We Can" went out this Sunday to clean up the streets and scrub away the graffiti left behind in the center of the city.
At its core sit the remains of Central World, which still spread its smell of burning ruins, around it. The regained traffic of the city, once again covering the twitter of birds, slows down in front of this spectacle of destruction, in front of a sleepy police post on the side of Gaysorn shopping mall.
Motorbikes stop everywhere in front of the long corrugated iron sheet that surrounds what used to be a jewel of the city. People pull out small cameras and cell phones and take pictures, before leaving again, absorbed in the flow of traffic.
Down Rama I a crew of cleaners collect the last debris from inside Wat Pathumwan, throwing in a large truck the stones prepared by the protesters for a final as desperate battle. Near them the calm pond where allegedly the government officials have found a small arsenal of weapons rest immobile, without a wrinkle. On the overpass toward Herny Dunant signs of a gun battle are left on the bars, pierced by small bullets, apparently coming from the street.
Who shoot them? What happened here? How did the wat became the theater of violence? All these questions and many others fill the streets and the private houses, in need to be reorganized, collected, or just thrown in the trash, as much as other more physical yet less heavy leftovers.
People around the city are trying to do this, to clean up and scrub the pieces of truth lying around in the dust, covered in a sea of lies and partial realities, on both sides. Today I went to a meeting in Thammasat University, where a group of scholars is trying to create an information center, a place to collect news from the dead, the injured, and the people who disappeared. In a large conference room about 20 people sat, talking about how to go about it. On a big white board they were scribbling the challenges and risks of this kind of job in an environment where the truth can be a dangerous waste.
“Be careful on your blog” Somebody told me today “You know a lot of people are getting interested. Just be careful, don’t speak publicly.” He silenced for a second. “You know self-censorship, just a little bit. To be safe.” I don’t feel angry or scared, I just feel sad for this country and thought about laudable efforts of this group in Thammasat, trying to balance a quest for truth with the fear of repression. So many people among the protesters lately have told me sentences like “I have seen too much, but I don’t want to talk about it now, it can be dangerous. Better wait to see what the government will do. Then I will talk.”
All around this the state is sharpening its instruments of fear, shutting down websites, calling up people to the CRES, and confiscating personal computers (here). Covering people’s mouth with hands is always a tricky effort, you tend to be very close to their teeth.