Damir's Feed
Mar 14, 2011

Japan’s crippled coastline: “It doesn’t get worse

OTSUCHI, Japan (Reuters) – Four days ago, Otsuchi was just another Japanese coastal town, a destination for surfers and lovers of remote beaches. Now, only a supermarket and a Buddhist temple remain standing amid a sea of devastation.

Like most of Japan’s northeast, Otsuchi was rattled by Friday’s massive earthquake and then flattened by the ensuing tsunami. Officials fear more than half the town’s population of about 19,000 is buried under the rubble.

Mar 9, 2011
via Photographers' Blog

A happy snap from the land of smiles

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This picture will be printed big on glossy paper, framed and hung.

It’s the wedding of Sarina and Kurisem: the moment they’ve been waiting for. Excitement and pride radiates from their families as Sarina’s parents send their daughter to a good family and for Kurisem’s parents, their son becomes a man.

The photo shows happiness, joy and a hope for a better future. Two beautiful young people smile in front of a golden background, plastic flowers and gifts. A synthetic carpet covers the mud and a silent fan prevents the scene from melting in the heat of southern Thailand. Two hearts, their names and the date are written in a strange combination of languages to remind us of a happy day.

Feb 8, 2011

In Cambodia’s temple battleground, a fragile peace

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (Reuters) – Monks pray and soldiers smoke cigarettes and doze in hammocks at the 900-year-old temple at the heart of Thailand and Cambodia’s deadly border clashes, but nobody dares predict the conflict is over.

Piles of sandbags and newly built bunkers surround the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, and while some Cambodian soldiers take the chance to relax, others clutch heavy-duty machineguns.

Dec 7, 2010
via Photographers' Blog

AIDS: Wat Prabat Nampu temple, Thailand

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Photographer Damir Sagolj presents a multimedia look at a hospice for those dying of AIDS at a Buddhist temple Wat Prabat Nampu in Lopburi, Thailand.

Nov 18, 2010
via Photographers' Blog

The magic of the crop

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That first day was history in the making. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the icon of the democracy movement in Myanmar and daughter of an independence hero of the country, was appearing in public for the first time in many years. I knew these were not going to be ordinary images. Leave them big and don’t try to improve the perfect. If I could only make the frame wider to show the whole country celebrating her freedom… but to crop – no, no, no…

Aung San Suu Kyi smiles as she walks with National League for Democracy party members after being released from house arrest in Yangon November 13, 2010. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Oct 10, 2010

Thousands of Thai “red shirts” demand prisoner release

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thousands of Thai anti-government activists gathered in Bangkok on Sunday to demand the release of protesters detained for their role in crippling demonstrations and bloody clashes with the military.

Groups of “red shirts” marched from the Ratchaprasong intersection to Democracy Monument, sites where a combined 91 people were killed and almost 2,000 wounded in April and May clashes and rioting that marked the country’s worst political violence in modern history.

May 20, 2010

Shots fired in Bangkok after day of violence

BANGKOK, May 20 (Reuters) – Thai soldiers fired into the air on Thursday as they approached a temple in Bangkok where several hundred anti-government protesters sought shelter after troops dispersed them a day before and their leaders surrendered.

A Reuters reporter said there were at least six bodies at the site, which appeared to have been there some time.

Fires were still burning in central Bangkok after an overnight curfew that followed a day of riots and arson by the "red shirt" protesters in which health officials said at least seven other people were killed. Local television channels, under government orders, were showing only approved programmes.

The Erawan Emergency Medical Centre said 81 people were wounded in the fighting at the protesters’ main camp in the commercial heart of the capital and in skirmishes around the city of 15 million. The mostly rural protesters had taken over parts of Bangkok over two months ago.

It was uncertain whether Wednesday’s rioting represented a final outpouring of protesters’ anger or whether it would intensify in days ahead, as there remains no political solution to the long running divisions in Thai society. [ID:nSGE64I0OI] [ID:nRISKTH]

"We can immediately fix the roads but we do not know how long it will take to fix the wounded hearts and minds of the people," Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra told local television. <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

For full coverage, click on [nTHAILAND]

Reuters Insider on Thai crisis link.reuters.com/cuq74k

For a live blog: link.reuters.com/hyr54k

For a graphic related to the story, see:

here ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

The red shirts want fresh elections, saying Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva lacks a proper mandate after coming to power in a controversial parliamentary vote in 2006 with tacit military support. Abhisit last week withdrew an offer of fresh elections.

Some political analysts said Thailand’s future stability now rested squarely with Abhisit — he must set a timetable for elections, release some moderate protest leaders and reach out to disaffected rural people in the country’s north.

"He will have to take risks that threaten his interests and that of the key elite constituencies that support him. A much harder line over the next few months will satisfy his core base, but worsen the political outlook," said Roberto Herrera-Lim, Asia director of the Washington-based Eurasia Group.

RAN IN FRIGHT

A Reuters photographer said the protesters at the temple, including many women and children, ran in fright at the sound of the gunshots.

An Erawan official said she was aware of nine bodies reported to be in a temple inside the protest site, but rescue workers had so far been unable to get there.

The authorities said late on Wednesday that 27 buildings were set on fire by protesters, including Central World, Southeast Asia’s second-biggest department store complex, which was gutted and looked close to collapse.

A spokesman for Bangkok’s governor reported 31 fires burning around the city on Thursday morning, around half at banks but also at a mall in the protest camp area, where a blaze had been started around midnight, after the curfew started at 8 p.m. (1300 GMT).

A small fire was started in the stock exchange on Wednesday. The market will be closed on Thursday and Friday and the Bank of Thailand said banks around the country would also stay shut. The whole week has been declared a public holiday in an effort to keep people out of central Bangkok.

The curfew in the capital, in the grip of protests by "red shirt" activists for weeks, was lifted at 6 a.m. (2300 GMT on Wednesday). Buses began running but it was unclear if the mass transit rail system would be reopened.

Television channels have been ordered to only air sanctioned programmes, broadcasting images of bulldozers pushed aside tyre and bamboo barricades as workers in trucks, under the protection of troops, cleaned up the protest camp site.

A single "red shirt" flag in the rubble flew limply in the morning breeze until it was crushed by a bulldozer.

Authorities imposed the curfew on 24 provinces — about a third of the total — after outbursts of unrest in seven regions, particularly in the north, a "red shirt" stronghold. Town halls were set alight in three northern areas.

The "red shirt" protesters are mostly drawn from the rural and urban poor and largely back former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist tycoon who was ousted in a 2006 coup and now lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a jail term for graft.

They started demonstrating in mid-March, demanding that the government step down and new elections be held. More than 70 people have been killed and nearly 2,000 wounded since then.

Thaksin said the crackdown could spawn guerrilla warfare.

"There is a theory saying a military crackdown can spread resentment and these resentful people will become guerrillas," he told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Early this month, Abhisit offered an election in November, just over a year before he needed to call one, but talks foundered and that offer is now off the table.

"In many places, armed elements have prevented officials from helping the people," Abhisit said in a televised statement late on Wednesday, adding he was determined to end the unrest and "return the country to peace and order once again". (Additional reporting by Ambika Ahuja and Nopporn Wong-Anan; Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)



May 20, 2010

Bangkok under curfew after fresh violence

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai troops fired into the air on Thursday as they approached a temple where several hundred “red shirt” protesters had sought shelter after security forces dispersed them a day before and their leaders surrendered.

Fires were still burning in central Bangkok after an overnight curfew that followed a day of riots and arson in which health officials said at least seven people were killed.

May 19, 2010

Bangkok under curfew after fresh anti-govt violence

BANGKOK, May 20 (Reuters) – Bangkok emerged from an overnight curfew on Thursday after the Thai capital was plunged into a day of rioting and fires in the aftermath of military action to disperse a camp of anti-government protesters. The capital, in the grip of protests by "red shirt" activists for six weeks, fell quiet as the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. (1300 to 2300 GMT) curfew came into effect, though isolated skirmishes were reported in darkened streets.

At least six people died in the turmoil after troops in armoured vehicles pushed into the city-centre camp, prompting protest leaders to surrender. Troops, authorised to shoot looters and arsonists, pursued operations through the night.

Authorities imposed the curfew initially on the capital, but later extended it to 21 provinces — about a third of the total — after oubursts of unrest in seven regions, particularly in the north, a "red shirt" stronghold.

"I am confident and determined to end the problems and return the country to peace and order once again," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajivahe said in a televised address on Wednesday night.

Thailand’s Stock Exchange, which closed early on Wednesday, was to remain shut on Thursday and Friday, along with banks. [ID:nSGE64H0A1]

Analysts said some investors bought shares on Wednesday, nudging the benchmark stock index up 0.71 percent, on news that the military had dispersed the protesters. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

For full coverage, click on [nTHAILAND]

Reuters Insider on Thai crisis link.reuters.com/cuq74k

For a live blog: link.reuters.com/hyr54k

For a graphic related to the story, see:

here ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

NEW VIOLENCE OR RESPITE?

Wednesday’s unrest, with 27 buildings set ablaze in Bangkok, including the stock exchange, was the "most widespread and most uncontrollable" political violence Thailand has ever seen, said political historian Charnvit Kasetsiri.

Town halls were set alight in three northern areas.

It was uncertain whether the rioting represented a final outpouring of protesters’ anger or whether they would intensify despite the scope of the curfew. [ID:nSGE64I0OI] [ID:nRISKTH]

A respite would give Thai markets some limited relief.

Further violence would suggest a new phase in Thailand’s political crisis, with the country moving towards the worst-case scenarios of prolonged unrest, profoundly negative for markets.

Protesters demand a new election and dismiss Abhisit as lacking a proper mandate after coming to power in a controversial parliamentary vote in 2006 with tacit military support.

In Washington, Kurt Campbell, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, told reporters talks were planned with Thai diplomats and officials.

A news blackout was imposed and local TV ran programmes of dancing and flag-waving Thais, periodically interrupting them for government statements. [ID:nSGE64I0I4]

The protesters, mostly rural and poor city dwellers, broadly support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist billionaire ousted in a 2006 coup and living in self-imposed exile to avoid jail on a graft conviction.

Thaksin said the crackdown could spawn guerrilla warfare.

"There is a theory saying a military crackdown can spread resentment and these resentful people will become guerrillas," he told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

The offensive was launched a day after the collapse of proposed talks aimed at ending weeks of confrontation. More than 70 people have been killed and nearly 2,000 people wounded since the demonstrations began in mid-March. (Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan and Ambika Ahuja; Writing by Ron Popeski; editing by Ralph Boulton)



May 19, 2010

Curfew imposed to curb Bangkok rioting, buildings burn

BANGKOK, May 19 (Reuters) – Rioting and fires swept Bangkok on Wednesday after troops stormed a protest encampment, forcing protest leaders to surrender, but sparking clashes that killed at least four people and triggered unrest in northern Thailand.

Protesters torched at least five buildings, including the Thai stock exchange and Central World, Southeast Asia’s second-biggest department store complex, and attacked local Channel 3 television station as riots spread across the city of 15 million people.

About 100 employees of the TV station were trapped on the roof of the of the highrise and most have been rescue by helicopters, local media said..

Power was lost in typically bustling Sukhumvit Road district, an area packed with tourists and high-end residential complexes, just hours after the army said the situation involving thousands of anti-government protesters was under control.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva imposed a curfew in Bangkok on Wednesday from 8 p.m. (1300 GMT) until 6 a.m. on Thursday (2300 GMT Wednesday) The curfew — details of which were read out on national television — was meant to allow security authorities perform their duty, Abhisit said in the order.

The chaos followed a military operation in the morning in which troops in armoured vehicles and firing semi-automatic weapons advanced on an area occupied for more than six weeks by thousands of the "red shirt" demonstrators.

As they surrounded the main protest site, top protest leaders offered to surrender, as supporters urged them to fight on, many screaming and crying as gun fire rang out nearby.

Moments later, live television showed four "red shirt" protest leaders in police custody and an army spokesman said in a television broadcast the protest site was under army control and the military had halted operations.

But that didn’t stop the unrest after six days of chaotic street fighting between protesters and troops that descended into urban warfare, killing 41 people and wounding more than 330.

Minutes after they surrendered, three grenades exploded outside the main protest site, badly wounding two soldiers and a foreign journalist, a Reuters witness said. Rioting was seen in five areas of the city as protesters lit fires and burned tyres. Some hotels set up wooden barricades.

Several media organisations including The Bangkok Post and The Nation newspapers evacuated their office after a threat from protesters accusing them of biased reporting.

"The situation is worse than expected now and it’s very difficult to stop," said Kavee Chukitsakem, head of research, Kasikorn Securities. "After the red shirt leaders surrendered, things were out of control. It’s like insects flying around from one place to another, causing irritation. We don’t know who they are and why they are doing this."

VIOLENCE SPREADS

Violence also spread to northeast Thailand, a red shirt stronghold, where protesters stormed a town hall complex in the city of Udon Thani, setting a building ablaze, and torched a second town hall in Khon Kaen.

Unrest was reported in three other provinces.

Three journalists were among 50 people wounded and one Western journalist, identified as an Italian, was killed.

Troops and armoured vehicles broke through the protesters’ three-metre-high (10 feet) barricades of tyres and bamboo, and fired tear gas and automatic rifle-fire at the protesters.

Two bodies were found on Ratchadamri Road, which leads to the main protest site after troops followed the army vehicle into the encampment, a Reuters witness said. They appeared to have been shot. The "red shirts" fired back, witnesses said.

Protesters ignited walls of tyres as the troops arrived, causing thick black smoke to billow high over skyscrapers and hiding thousands of demonstrators who have occupied the heart of Bangkok’s commercial district for more than six weeks.

The mostly rural and urban poor protestors broadly support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a graft-convicted populist billionaire ousted in a 2006 coup and living in self-imposed exile to avoid jail.

Thaksin raised the spectre of insurrection in a telephone interview with Reuters on Wednesday. "There is a theory saying a military crackdown can spread resentment and these resentful people will become guerrillas," he said, but declined to say where he was speaking from.

"For investors, it is going to take years to bring credibility back to the country,". The market fundamentals are just not the same any more, said Kongkiat Opaswongkarn, head of Asia Plus Securities.

The military offensive came a day after the collapse of a proposal for talks aimed at ending five days of chaotic street fighting that descended into urban warfare.

The red shirts accuse the British-born, Oxford-educated Abhisit of lacking a popular mandate after coming to power in a controversial parliamentary vote in 2008 with tacit backing from the military. They have demanded immediate elections.

Troops over the past few days had thrown a cordon around the protest site, a "tent city" at the Rachaprasong intersection, paralysing the heart of Bangkok. Hundreds of women and children have taken refuge in a temple inside the protest area.

Protesters have stockpiled food, water, and supplies in the encampment since Thursday when the assassination of a major-general allied to the red shirts, and an army operation to pressure them, sparked the latest wave of violence that has killed 68 people and wounded more than 1,700 since the demonstrations began in mid-March. (Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan, Michael Perry and Ambika Ahuja; Writing by Jason Szep; Editing by Bill Tarrant)



    • About Damir

      "Born in Sarajevo in 1971. Damir joined Reuters as a staff photographer in 1997. He has covered major events in the Balkans, Middle East and Americas and is currently chief photographer in Thailand. Damir was in the Bosnian army for five years and worked for the Paris-based Sipa press agency as their Bosnian photographer. The opinions expressed are his own."
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