Bangkok blast

Tragic attack holds lessons for everyone

It has been nearly two weeks since the deadly blast at Bangkok's Erawan Shrine, and yet the investigation is still mired in confusion and contradiction.

As citizens and residents of Bangkok, the best we can do now is to be persistent in demanding that the investigation be kept transparent and competent - perhaps a tall order, given that the country's administration is overseen by the military , which has a propensity to keep secrets.

Other than pushing for a competent investigation into the bombing, Thais should also learn to be open-minded, and stop making baseless accusations on who might be behind the bombing, based on political predisposition.

Fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his red shirts, former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban and his multi-coloured shirts, junta leader-cum-premier Prayut Chan-o-cha and his men, and even the United States Central Intelligence Agency have been readily accused of being behind the bombing.

For those who may not be convinced, there are even photoshopped sketches of the bomber, looking somewhat like Thaksin, Mr Suthep or General Prayut, spreading on social media. Flinging accusations at people without any evidence is not helpful at all.

The bomb attack at the Erawan Shrine on Aug 17, in which 20 people died, and more than 100 were injured, was an attack on the Thai way of life, and Thai society as a whole, says the writer.

While I don't believe in hiding behind the facade of political unity in order to deal with an incident such as this one, there are certain points Thais can all agree upon.

First, Thais should all join together and turn this tragedy into an opportunity to boost the culture of safety.

Last week, on Saturday afternoon, less than five days after the bombing, I visited the Erawan Shrine and found myself unnerved when an Asian tourist left her large plastic bag unattended for several minutes. I even took a photograph of the bag and shared it widely on Facebook and Twitter - and many responded with similar horror.

Security guards at some posh department stores and Skytrain stations appear to have increased their security checks but, based on my personal experience, these checks are mostly superficial.

Isn't it high time that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the government started running campaigns teaching people to cultivate a culture of safety and security? These campaigns will certainly be more helpful than nice-sounding but vague mottoes like "stronger together".

Though I do not condone living in fear, we must accept that there is a difference between caution and fear. Let no bomber cow us into living a life full of fear but, instead, have him force us to focus more on ensuring public safety.

Then, there is the question of mourning, or apparent lack thereof, in this case. No flags were flown at half-mast, and just four days after the blast, the premier even found the time to play with an albino python in front of the media. Perhaps, he was pretending that nothing had happened.

Of course, nobody can be forced to feel sad or sorry for those who lost their lives but it seems that life goes on as normal for far too many people.

Though many of us do not know any of the people killed or injured in the attack, we must understand that it wasn't just an attack on the 100 or so worshippers at the shrine that day, but an attack on our way of life, and Thai society as a whole.

On Aug 17, at around 6.55pm, 20 people were killed, and more than 100 people were injured indiscriminately in the blast - and they could have been you or me.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'Tragic attack holds lessons for everyone'. Print Edition | Subscribe