In the City of the Fourth Heaven
Renegade Thai general Seh Daeng just died in Bangkok's Vajira hospital from his head wound.
Even though he was shot just last Thursday, events have raced past his assassination. I haven't been posting about it much because it is just one nightmare story after another. The battles are fragmenting and spreading throughout the city, like a gang war gone viral. Thirty five people, 34 of them civilians, are dead. The civilians died of gunshot wounds to the head and/or upper body--the mark of sniper fire from Army sharpshooters.
Last night, in the wee hours, the Red Shirts attacked the Dusit Thani hotel with grenades. The guests evacuated to the basement.
I know the Dusit Thani well. It's around the corner from one of the places I often stay in Bangkok. A bit dated, it was one of the first real western-style luxury hotels to open in Bangkok in the 1970s.
The rumors are that Seh Daeng's sniper shot from the upper floors of the Dusit Thani, and that's why the Red Shirts blasted it last night.
As with so many other things else in this conflict, there's a deeper symbolism here. An ironic one.
The original "Dusit Thani" was not a hotel, but an experimental city created within the palace grounds by Thailand's progressive King Rama VI.
King Rama IV devised a Utopian concept in 1918, named Dusit Thani, meaning “Town in Heaven”. To Thais, the word “Dusit” has two very special connotations. First, Dusit is the mythological name for the fourth of the seven levels of heaven. Second, King Rama VI took the name adding “Thani,” meaning “Town” in Thai, to be the title of a model city for democratic society where everyone would live in happiness and freedom.
The besieged hotel named after King Rama VI's utopian democratic Fourth Heavenly City was evacuated this morning--right around the same time that General Seh Daeng died.
More tragic symbolism: My calendar tells me that this Friday is the Buddah's Birthday, a hugely important holiday in Buddhist Thailand. Pray that the forces that have spiraled out of control in Bangkok honor the Buddha by stopping the violence on his feast day, and coming to the negotiating table in his name.