SAN FRANCISCO — A ceremony was held Oct. 1 to dedicate Vicha Ratanapakdee Way, named for an 84-year-old Thai American who died after an unprovoked attack in January 2021.
The street, formerly known as Sonora Lane, is the first in the nation to be named in honor of a Thai American.
Ratanapakdee, an immigrant from Thailand, was taking his morning walk in the Anza Vista neighborhood when a 19-year-old man assaulted him. He was found in a pool of his own blood and was rushed to a hospital, where he died two days later without regaining consciousness. The incident, which was captured on surveillance video, ignited a nationwide movement to combat anti-AAPI hate.
Speakers at the ceremony, held at the intersection of Terra Vista and Encanto Avenue, included his daughter, Monthanus Ratanapakdee; actor/producer/director Daniel Dae Kim; community activist Max Leung; Amanda Ngoc Nguyen, founder and CEO of Rise, a civil rights organization; and Consul General of Thailand Tor Saralamba. Buddhist monks gave their blessing.
“It is my hope, our hope that the Vicha Ratanpakdee route reminds generations to come that violence against our Asian community, especially the elderly, has no place in our society,” the daughter told CNN.
The Southeast Asian Development Center partnered with San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stafani and the Ratanapakdee family a year ago to commemorate “Grandpa Vicha” by renaming a street.
“Today is a special day for the Southeast Asian American community,” said SEADC Executive Director Judy Young. “Over 20,000 Southeast Asian Americans live in San Francisco. Southeast Asian American communities, including Cambodians, Laotians, Thai, and Vietnamese, have long been overlooked … Today, I am honored to stand with Supervisor Stefani to recognize that the Thai and broader Southeast Asian community are part of the national conversation to stop AAPI hate …
“The renaming of Sonora Lane to Vicha Ratanapakdee Way is the first in San Francisco history, and a first in the United States, a street is renamed in honor of a Thai American. I’m especially proud of this legacy for our Southeast Asian American community. We are no longer overlooked.
“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, physical and verbal attacks on Asian American Pacific Islanders rose throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and across the nation. Grandpa Vicha’s death was the tipping point for many Asian Americans in San Francisco to say, enough is enough, and the hate and attacks must stop. Grandpa Vicha has become the face of the #stopaapi hate movement.
“I want to thank the organizations, individuals, and volunteers for putting today’s event together. We’re united to stop AAPI hate.”
Dion Lim, an ABC7 news anchor and reporter who has covered anti-AAPI hate incidents in the Bay Area extensively, said prior to the ceremony, “It has been 609 days since the senseless killing of 84-year-old Thai grandpa Vicha Ratanapkdee. I’ll never forget the moment I received the surveillance of him being shoved to the ground and saw for the first time wickedness in action …
“I ran into his daughter, Monthanus, at the market this week and she told me seeing the sign made her cry. It’s remarkable, as I’ve gotten to know Monthanus over the past year-and-a-half or so, how strong her voice has become. Her father’s death has been credited with igniting the movement to stop the attacks on Asian Americans.
“But make no illusions, she says this journey has been exceptionally difficult. Getting people to pay attention, endless interviews, fighting for a mural, fighting for this street renaming. For laws to be changed and to get justice for her dad.
“She is tired, I am tired, and many of you probably feel the same way seeing the attacks continue to this day.”
In conjunction with the ceremony, a PBS documentary, “Rising Against Asian Hate,” which recounts Ratanapakdee’s story and legacy, was screened that afternoon at the Roxie Theater.