Is 'the man in the yellow shirt' the key to the Bangkok bombing?

GlobalPost
Flowers and signs near the site of the explosion a day earlier next to the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, Thailand, on August 18, 2015.
Nicolas Axelrod

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NEED TO KNOW

Is this person the key to yesterday’s fatal bombing in Bangkok? Grainy CCTV footage shows a man in a yellow T-shirt leaving a large backpack on a bench near the Erawan Shrine, one of the Thai capital’s most visited tourist attractions. The guy swiftly walks away. Less than half an hour later, a large explosion would kill 22 people and injure more than 100.

Police say they’re looking for the man, who has not been identified. Nor has the motive for the attack. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has spoken only of “anti-government groups.” The bombing aimed to take lives and damage the country’s valuable tourism industry, he said. If so, it seems to have worked. Several other countries in Asia — at least four of which lost nationals in the blast — have warned their citizens to take extra care when visiting Thailand, or even to avoid it altogether.

For those already in Bangkok, the terror isn’t over. Today, police report, another explosive device was thrown from a bridge near a busy train station. It landed in a canal below and no one was hurt. Authorities are still investigating whether there was any link to Monday’s incident, which Prayuth has called the “worst ever attack” on Thailand. Here’s hoping there are none worse.

WANT TO KNOW

One of the biggest stories of our time is also the hardest to tell. It’s happening in Syria, where a protest movement that began more than four years ago has evolved into a multi-front civil war that shows little sign of resolution. Millions of Syrians are displaced and seeking assistance from reluctant neighbors. Their country has become a proxy battleground for competing powers and groups. News from inside Syria matters to publics all over the world. The story of the war needs to be told, and told precisely.

The problem is this: It has become nearly impossible to report accurately from inside Syria. The conflict there has now claimed the lives of more than 80 journalists in the last four years, making Syria the second-deadliest place for reporters after Iraq. As well as the incidental casualties, there were the foreign correspondents who extremists took hostage and murdered — like James Foley, an American journalist who reported for GlobalPost from Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, and whose execution at the hands of the Islamic State was made public almost a year ago to the day.

The dangers have led most foreign news organizations to stop working with journalists within Syria, relying instead on reporters outside its borders and sources inside whose reports are difficult, if not impossible, to verify. Syrians still in their country who take extraordinary risks to send information to media on the outside are some of the most important reporters in the world.

How did Syria’s story become so dangerous to tell? And what does that mean for a global public that needs to hear it? GlobalPost investigates what’s stopping the rest of the world bearing witness to one of the worst conflicts happening right now

STRANGE BUT TRUE

They dress up. They play loud music at all hours. They disregard road rules and bring traffic to a standstill. Some of them drink alcohol and smoke cannabis in full public view.

India’s capital, New Delhi, is just returning to normal after being overrun by rowdy crowds last week. These were not your average partiers, however: they were pilgrims.

Kanwars, as devotees of the Hindu god Shiva who make the annual Kanwar Yatra pilgrimage are known, are a force to be reckoned with. Each year, 20 million of them set off around the country. In Delhi, some 300,000 men and women, clad in orange robes and carrying pots of sacred water from the Ganges River, flooded the city on their way back home to deliver their offerings to statues of Lord Shiva.

It’s a spiritual affair, but not a solemn one. Residents complain that Kanwars ignore noise restrictions, disrupt traffic and flout all sorts of regulations that Delhians have to obey. Just imagine if the entire population of Pittsburgh decided to walk barefoot through your city carrying ​boomboxes and holding late-night dance parties. Okay, that does sound annoying. But also, well, kind of fun. See for yourself