The Two Faces of Black Songkran

This has indeed been a black day for the people of Thailand. Literally, as the black smoke from burning tyres made it look like that the city was on fire. Today should have been a day of joy as people celebrated the start of the traditional Thai new year. Although Songkran activities were cancelled in Bangkok and surrounding provinces, the Thai people still managed to go out to have some fun splashing water at each other. In this first picture of Songkran that I took this morning, young children are using water guns to ambush a motorcyclist.

At the same time in downtown Bangkok, fully armed soldiers were marching down a deserted road. At the far end was their target. A group of several hundred red shirted protesters who had taken over an intersection. The soldiers shot live rounds into the air and the protesters threw Molotov cocktails and rocks. The government said that no-one was killed but dozens were seriously injured. The battle for Bangkok didn’t just take place in this one location. The red shirts were spread out at various intersections.

This next picture shows the innocence of youth. While riots were raging in Bangkok, the children of Thailand were able to briefly forget the troubles of their parents and they went out to enjoy the greatest water fight of the year. Although the adults were fighting with real guns, these youngsters just wanted to have some fun. I took this picture this afternoon in Samut Prakan. Although we also have an emergency decree forbidding assembly of crowds with more than five people, the youth of Samut Prakan chose to ignore it.

Meanwhile, in Bangkok, the red shirt protesters had hijacked metropolitan buses and used them as barriers to block major intersections. They set tyres on fire and even at least one of the hijacked buses. In this picture by Getty Images, Thai soldiers are using a water cannon to put out the fires before advancing forward. Just last week everyone thought that the protesters would all go home at the weekend for the long Songkran holidays. No-one was prepared for a Red Songkran, let alone a black one like this. Although the soldiers retook this section of Bangkok today, the war is far from over. As night fell, reports came out of two deaths.

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