Monthly Archives: March 2010

Security Stepped up at Airport

The red shirt protests in Bangkok have been going on for about a week now. By world standards, this must be one of the most peaceful mass protests ever. Only the Thai people can protest but keep smiling at the same time. The rally site is more like an outdoor concert at times. However, there is always the risk that small factions will take matters into their own hands. The latest press reports suggest that there is a split in the ranks as some people don’t agree with the peaceful rally. What many of us are worried about is that a handful of people could try and instigate violence. On Saturday, the red shirts will be doing a 50 km long parade around Bangkok in order to drum up more support. The route has been roughly mapped out already and they won’t be going anywhere near the airport. However, the army are not taking any chances. When I was over at Suvarnabhumi airport this afternoon, I passed a couple of checkpoints that were in the process of being set up. No-one wants a repeat of what happened when the yellow shirts shut down the airport. In addition to the airport, many government buildings around Thailand have also stepped up security. In the picture below you can see unarmed security guards directing traffic in front of Samut Prakan Provincial Hall. Despite all of this, Thailand is still a safe place for a holiday.

Map of Saturday’s Red Shirt Parade Around Bangkok

Thailand is Open as Normal

The red shirt protests have been going on in Bangkok for 4-5 days now. Countless thousands of protesters have been camped out along the Royal Avenue. The news hasn’t received that much attention yet in the international press, mainly because there hasn’t been any violence. Thailand is not like other countries as the citizens are mainly Buddhists. Their protests are largely symbolic. The picture above from Reuters is probably something similar that will run on the front pages tomorrow with the headline “Blood Spilled at Government House”. But, no-one was hurt or injured. Thousands of red shirt supporters donated blood today for this Brahman ritual to curse the Thai government and to force the prime minister to dissolve government.

I attended both the yellow shirt and red shirt rallies to take pictures and I was impressed with their behaviour and general mood. Many people commented it was like a carnival atmosphere. There were even stalls selling souvenirs and bands playing songs on the stages. Some foreign tourists probably mistakenly thought that it was another colourful Thai festival. Despite this, and the fact that there has been no serious act of violence on the streets of Bangkok in the last five days, is is strange to hear that 35 countries have so far released travel advisories about Thailand. Some have even warned their citizens not to travel to Bangkok at all. I am not going to pretend that street fighting will never take place, but the odds of it happening is very small. In addition, foreign tourists have never been targeted in any protest.

Thailand and Bangkok are safe and there is no reason for you to cancel your holiday:

  • Both city airports (Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi) are operating as normal
  • All other international and domestic airports in Thailand remain fully operational
  • Tourist attractions in the city remain open for business
  • Shopping malls are open
  • MICE venues are open

I will be posting regular updates of breaking news on Twitter @RichardBarrow

Be safe by keeping an eye on the news and staying away from the main protest sites that I have marked on this google map. If you face any problems them use the 24 hour tourist hotline 1672.

Samut Prakan Red March to Bangkok

Over the past few days, the red shirts have been streaming into Bangkok to join the protest site on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue. On Sunday the red shirts from Samut Prakan came together to join the protest. The local red shirt radio had been broadcasting for several days the schedule for going into Bangkok. A total of 60 coaches had been arranged to pick up the protesters from ten different locations around Samut Prakan Province from 7 a.m. on Sunday morning. They were told to bring along some water, food, change of clothes, a mobile phone and a camera. The phone was to report to the radio station anything suspicious that they saw. The camera was for taking pictures of any troublemakers. They were also given advice not to give their i.d. cards to anyone.

Our local meeting place was the Old Paknam Prison. As it is only five minutes from the Paknam Web office I went down to take a look shortly after seven. By this time there were about eight coaches there with several hundred red shirts. There were supposed to be ten coaches but the local radio were saying that a government department had sent letters out to all coach companies saying that they would face trouble if they rented their coaches out to the red shirts. Looks like at least eight here disobeyed them. By eight o’clock five of the coaches were full and they all left. The half empty coaches went too as all the coaches from around the province were going to come together at 9 a.m. at the Bang Na intersection.

As our office is only 20 minutes away from Bang Na we went back to have a quick breakfast and then headed out in our car to try and catch up with the coaches. The road was clear for most of the way but became more congested the nearer we got to the intersection. We were now following pickup trucks with red shirts and there were also more of them walking along the side of the road. Everyone heading the same way. The atmosphere reminded me of a football match in the UK. Everyone dressed in the same colours and singing songs and chants and blowing whistles. It could have easily been a Liverpool or Man United match we were going to. This carnival atmosphere continued for the entire day.

We didn’t really know what to expect once we had arrived at Bang Na. We thought there would be a long line of coaches. We were expecting to take a few shots here for our local newspaper and then follow them into Bangkok. Maybe even going on ahead to meet them there. However, there were no coaches in sight. What we did find was that two lanes of Sukhumwit Road were full of red shirt supporters. There were also many pickup trucks and motorcycles. We soon realized that this was going to be the start of a long parade into Bangkok. Unbelievably, many of them were doing the journey on foot. The distance must have been something like 25 kilometers at least. So, we ended up going with them up Sukhumwit Road, stopping every now and then to take pictures and to send out live reports and photos on twitter.

Despite reports in the newspapers about checkpoints and lengthy searches by the police of red shirt vehicles, nothing could stop this parade. In fact, some policemen seemed to be waving and giving the victory sign as the convoy passed them. Many local people also came out to clap and cheer. I didn’t see any hostility at all. Some of them even handed out bottles of water to the walkers. So, we continued like this all the way up Sukhumwit following the sky train route and blocking two lanes. On one long stretch of road I got up on a pedestrian bridge and I could see that the parade stretched back as far as the eye could see. Rally organizers were claiming 10,000 red shirts though I think it was more like 3,000. But, as we continued our journey, red shirts standing by the side of the road joined the parade. After a few hours we were passing Central World Plaza and Siam Square.

The hours ticked by as we crawled into Bangkok. Finally, after nearly six hours we finally reached our destination. The main rally stage at Phan Fa Lilat bridge. Although we had done the red march in a car, we were just as exhausted. But the sight that welcomed us here was enough natural adrenalin to keep anyone going. We parked our car and walked the final fifteen minutes to Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue. As expected, it was a sea of red in every direction. Loudspeakers had been set up in various locations and people were sitting or lying down listening to the speeches all over the place. We went to the media tent to register and then got our passes to go up onto the stage. It was a great vantage point from up here. Our journey was over. We had made it! We stayed for a while taking pictures, but our main story for that day was the long red march that brought us here. You can find about 600 of our pictures over at

You can follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow. We also have links to blog articles about the red shirt rally at our sister site If you are in Bangkok or going there soon, then check out our Google Map of the Danger Zones which we are continually updating during the day.

The Red Guard – Defender of the People

A total of 5,000 red guards are believed to be deployed at the rally site in Bangkok and at 30 other locations in the area. This includes 200 mobile units on motorcycle. They will be providing protection to the red shirts at the rally and also intercepting anyone trying to make trouble. The red shirt leaders know that if there is any violence by a red shirt (or someone pretending to be a red shirt) then they will lose support.

The guards at the mini-rally in Samut Prakan yesterday were dressed in Black with either cap or hard hat. It looked like they were wearing bullet proof jackets but I doubt it. They also wore a red and black scarf, armband and had an i.d. card around their neck. In Thai and English they are calling themselves “Defenders”. The badge on the sleeve says “The Democratic Defender”. On the i.d. the slogan in Thai says “Defender of the People”.

You can find all the latest links to blogs about the Red Shirt Rally over at our sister blog Thailand Voice. We also have a google map of Bangkok Dangerous – Red Shirts Rally March 2010 which has had over 10,000 hits in 48 hours. The Samut Prakan red shirts will be going into Bangkok tomorrow morning and we will be going with them. You can follow us live on Twitter @RichardBarrow.

Red Shirts Rally in Samut Prakan

The mass red shirt rallies organized to topple the Thai government have now started. Today, red shirts from provinces surrounding Bangkok took part in mini rallies in their local areas. Tomorrow, they will march into Bangkok to be joined by countless thousands of red shirts from every region of Thailand for the big rally starting on Sunday.

These are pictures that I took of the red shirt rally in Samut Prakan this morning. There was an estimated 4-5,000 people there. The rally started at the City Hall area where the people listened to speeches. They then paid respect to the statue of King Rama V. I believe they were doing this for good luck as tomorrow they will be heading into Bangkok.

These are some of the red shirt security guards that surrounded the mobile stage. They were protecting the red shirt leaders. They all wore special id cards because there have been reports of people pretending to be red shirts in order to cause damage to their reputation.

Some of the red shirts posing in front of the statue of King Rama V. Everyone was very friendly and relaxed. There was no danger here at all despite reports from the government that the rallies might turn violent.

The red shirts are paying respect to statue of King Rama V. In the background is the provincial hall. The entrance was blocked off by police wearing riot gear. THe red shirt leaders announced that the Governor must be on their side as he let them rally at the City Hall Plaza.

They next left the city hall to parade through the town to the City Pillar to again wish for good luck on their journey tomorrow into Bangkok. Here they are passing the police station and the courthouse. Both of them had riot police guarding the entrances. However, there was no danger.

They must have blocked traffic for about an hour as they marched through town. I was running on ahead of the parade. Some shopkeepers quickly closed up shop. Maybe worried of potential violence as we have been brainwashed by the government. One classic Western movie scene I saw was a mother running out from a shop house and shouting at her young child to get in quickly.

Along the way we passed Bangkok Bank. Last week two branches in Samut Prakan were bombed. The police here were guarding the entrance. Maybe expecting problems. But, again, the parade passed by with no incident.

We were posting live from the rally and parade on various sites. Mainly on Twitter @RichardBarrow. But, I also managed a couple of moblogs at You can also see several hundred pictures over at We are now about to leave to go to the big red shirt rally at the Stadium in Bang Phli. We will post live pictures via twitter.