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June 6, 2010

Chien-Min Chung: Deadly Endgame In Bangkok

Following up on Rian Dundon’s dispatch from Bangkok, Thailand, photographer Chien-min Chung stayed until the bloody end of the recent political unrest and violence:

On the night before May 19th, there was yet another rumor of a predawn government crackdown dispersing the Red Shirt protesters from their camp in downtown Bangkok. However, this time felt different, after militant Red Shirt leader, Thai general Khattiya Sawasdipol, was shot and killed by unknown gunmen, inciting the demonstrators out of their camp into organized satellite protests all over Bangkok. The government had to act fast, or risk further outbreaks of unrest.

Snipers were killing innocent people; a medical worker was shot in the head. Red Shirt activists fired M79 grenades — you had no idea where they were coming from — until you heard a deafening explosion. By the end of the day on May 19th, at least three journalists were wounded by grenades or gunfire;  Italian photojournalist Fabio Polenghi was shot and killed.

Fires and looting occurred throughout the city. The final count of dead from protest related violence was 88. Eventually the fires were extinguished and an uneasy calm returned to the streets of Bangkok; however, the country remains deeply divided, and it’s a matter of when, not if, persistent political wounds rip open again.

–Chien-Min Chung

PHOTOGRAPHS by CHIEN-MIN CHUNG / Polaris Images

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