Thailand's Growing Pains

James Nachtwey / VII for TIME

Battered A burned Thai flag over downtown Bangkok

On may 19, I watched my adopted city burn. Plumes of thick black smoke rose amid deserted office buildings about 1.5 km from my Bangkok home as troops stormed the Red Shirt camp. There, chaos reigned: protesters set buildings ablaze, soldiers exchanged fire with black-clad gunmen, ambulances raced off with the dead and wounded. But farther south, near my home, there was no bloodshed, just shuttered shops and deserted roads. This unsettled me almost as much. I have lived in Bangkok for 15 years. What terrible force could empty the streets of this once vibrant...

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