Shutdown Bangkok

Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, January 13, 2014

Today was Shutdown Bangkok, which meant that 7 major intersections that provided access to the city were closed, to impede government workers to get to their jobs. All this was part of a massive protest, asking Prime Minister Yingluck Shinnawat to resign and cancel the February 2 elections. People were marching on the streets, with black shirts that read “Shutdown Bangkok” and gathering together at these strategic points to occupy the city and shut it down.

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For us, it meant that the university gates were closed, so we went through a construction site and cut across the little creek to get to our building. We proceeded with class without interruptions. It was out first formal day of the program, in which Michael Fryer and Rita Machanda introduced us to the field of conflict resolution, influential scholars and schools of thought. It was an intense day, but we had a couple of group exercises that were very interesting. I specially liked the one about the 5 presidents and the UN Security Council.

While we were learning about the theory of peace and conflict, outside of our classroom things were heating up and next door to us, some of the Chula political science students had set up a watchdog website called Thai Violence Watch, through which people could report the incidence of violence on the street. They developed questionnaires and surveyed people that were calling them -and others that they crossed on the streets. With indicators such as hate speech, tools used, etc. they were measuring how hot the situation was getting. I thought of Syria Tracker and my friend Hend and the wonders of crowdsourcing to document human rights abuses.

After class, I decided to stay to use Internet and set up our Class’ Facebook group. It’s been a week and we didn’t have one yet? How did this happen?! I also worked a little bit and worried a bit about some of my clients, who will be needing services while I’m gone. After a couple of hours of getting back to people via emails and talking to our Deputy Director about several ideas, we went for dinner with 6 other fellows. On the way back, I tried to help L set up his Skype, so that he can see his family -but the wifi challenge here continues.

Things to remember:  waking up early to have a decent Facetime conversation with Freddy -even if it meant being bitten by a hungry mosquito that was lonely all night in the common living room of the International housing. Second favorite thing: the opening of our class  when Michael used the example of how in Syria they are worried about foreigners influencing internal politics and then putting our picture of the protest on Sunday night…

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