June 7, 2010–It is with a great sigh of relief that I write to share Soraida Salwala, the founder of The Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) Elephant Hospital featured in the documentary The Eyes of Thailand, and the elephants and staff at FAE are safe after the conflict that started in Bangkok, but spread to the Northern and Eastern provinces, finally ended. The current statistics count 89 dead and 1,884 injured.
I asked Soraida to write when she was safe and explain what she saw. On May 25, 2010, she wrote the following:
Here it is what I could think of now.
I went to Bangkok on the 12th May to attend two meetings, bank documents for the Board to sign, so I could go to the banks. However those tasks were not done at all except the documents signed. Only 20 minutes before the problems arose on the night of 13th, I called FAE staff and talked to them on the speaker to quickly call their friends or relatives in those areas to evacuate that minute. It was a tragic and horrifying for all of us. I could see smoke and they were in air you breathed.
I was stuck in Bangkok for one whole week and in the morning of the 19th May, the military were taking over the dangerous zones, I went to the hospital to see my cardiologist and others, thinking the worse was I would be stuck at the hospital and it would better than to be on the roads. Anyway, I followed the news closely on twitter and so I decided I should leave Bangkok. I managed to get a flight out of Bangkok Airport to Chiangmai.
Those seven days were nightmares, not only to me but all residents in Bangkok and most of us Thais. I talked to the staff and greeted the elephants via phone, worked via emails, reassuring them that I was safe.But shortly after my arrival in Chiangmai, some riots there too, burning the tyres, burning the Governor’s house and etc. Smoke was in the air, curfew was announced and so I was stuck there again.
The problems are still there but the protesters were out of Bangkok, some leaders have been arrested. Some are charged with terrorism. I could not describe my feelings seeing burning buldings, almost 40 places burnt. Snipers shooting pedestrians, hand grenades were thrown, gunfires, explosions heard.
We are still under curfew, Bangkok ,Chiangmai, Lampang and other 20 or so provinces.
They will not stop until they get what they want but why destroy the buildings, kill the soldiers, kill their own people, looting shops. I am still numbed and devastated.
The elephants are fine and I am worried about what might come next. I do not wish to travel for fear that if anything happened I could not return to the north.
The Bangkok Post is calling for reconciliation between the Red shirts and Yellow shirts in order to preserve democracy in Thailand. Yesterday, Op-Ed writer Voranai Vanijaka wrote, “It’s either evolution from above, or revolution from below _ and we all should pray for the former, because the latter means bloodshed and anarchy _ as we have already witnessed.”
Please join me in sending your thoughts for safety and reconciliation. I will post more as I receive news.
Director/Producer, “The Eyes of Thailand”