Post-bomb Bangkok Moves on, But With New Sense of Insecurity

By Jocelyn Gecker 3 September 2015

BANGKOK — One Bangkok resident says he can’t shake the horrid sight of what he saw, or the smell of death. Another says the initial shock is gone and he’s returned to his old routine—work, happy hour and taking selfies.

Two weeks have now passed since the bombing at a central Bangkok shrine, giving residents of the Thai capital time to digest what authorities call the deadliest attack the country has ever experienced.

On the surface, the bustling city of food vendors, traffic jams and raucous nightlife is back to normal. But many feel a gnawing sense of fear and insecurity, especially in tourist areas like the Erawan Shrine, where the Aug. 17 bombing left 20 people dead and more than 120 injured.

Police have arrested two suspects, and issued arrest warrants for others. But they have not said if any of them is the bomber. The motive is unknown and police discoveries of apartments filled with bomb-making materials have left many wondering if violence will strike again.

Here’s what people in Bangkok are saying:


“I don’t know when I’m going to die. I don’t know if this will happen again. But I have to come to work and do my job.”

AEK CHIMKAM, MOTORCYCLE TAXI DRIVER, works across the street from Erawan Shrine

“I was here when it happened. I helped move injured people to the hospital. I saw dead bodies and people covered in blood. There was a human organ on the street, I think it was a liver. I couldn’t sleep for two nights. Now it’s better, but sometimes I have to drink to get to sleep. I still remember the smell. I can’t explain it. It was like flesh on a grill.”

“I’m still concerned. I don’t know if there will be another bomb. I don’t want to get stuck at that traffic light,” he points to the corner where the blast occurred. “I’ll go out of my way not to stop there.”

RUDEE JIAMJAIRAT, FLOWER VENDOR, has worked outside Erawan Shrine for past 44 years

“We’re not afraid. We believe the spirit of the shrine will protect us. But we’re looking out for foreigners with light skin who look like the bombing suspect. When we see people carrying backpacks we tell each other to keep an eye on them. If anyone is standing around here for too long, I tell the security guard and he tells them to leave.”

NAKUL PORNPIRIYAKULCHAI, ASSISTANT MANAGER at an electronics company, having after-work drinks with friends at an upscale bar near the shrine

“For the first two days after the attack, I was quite traumatized. But after a week, things returned to normal. It happened in phases on social media, too. Phase one was everyone sending those photos around (of the bombing suspect). Then people stopped sharing photos. Now it’s gone quiet. We’re back to taking selfies with food, and drinking beers,” he paused. “But we still don’t know who did it. I still want to know what the motive is.”

CRISTINA RUNGARUNVASIN, THAI-AMERICAN ACTRESS, with friends at a waterside restaurant

“I still feel worried. Like today, I had to stop at an intersection, and I’m thinking every second that the light is red, ‘If a bomb goes off which way should I run?’ I still feel scared if I’m in the car or walking outside, especially in tourist areas.”

GUNYOOTAPONG NOPAKUN, DJ, having lunch at popular shopping mall Terminal 21

“Thai people forget things easily, and a lot of things are returning to normal. But what if bad things happen? There’s a big chance that bad things might happen again. And I’m sure that they don’t have enough security to watch suspicious people or find suspicious objects. You never know if you are safe enough, you never know if the CCTV cameras above you work properly. And if you die you don’t even know that the government will report the news with 100 percent truth, or not. This is Thailand.”