Before you read this, please know that I am completely neutral in this battle for democracy, I was about to type that I have “No color”, but then I would be still taking a side. You can call me Shirtless I guess.
Up until now, there has been nothing resolved, only more protest’s popping up around the Bangkok city area; not just by the infamous Redshirts, but by other “colors” so to speak. First we had the PAD come in to action again, with their talks held at Bangkok University last week, followed by an uprise of the No-Colors, which formed right around me while standing in Silom taking pictures of soldiers for twitter. Many people have different opinions of this group, I saw one person on twitter post that a women thinks they were paid 500baht per day by the Thai Army, or they were simply PAD in disguise. Who knows, they made quite a presence, thats for sure!
I will not go into the Thai political mess, as most of you have been bored to death by the never ending arguments about Abhisit not having the guts to stand up to anyone etc. But rather tell you about the week on Silom ever since the Thai Army was deployed to protect and defend the capital of the Go-Go’s.
Being a twitter whore, I am following all the latest hash-tags (popular topics people can relate to while using twitter) that are either about the redshirts, or the rallies going on within Bangkok. With an iPhone and some edge minutes, you can follow the latest news, that is what I am doing all day, every day.
When I saw the tweet on the BTS Monday morning, “army deployed on Silom road”, I think I was more excited than any other feeling. I was always outside the action and never really got sight of the redshirts, other than watching them drive past my local food shop on Sukhumvit while the cooks rushed out waving their red flags at them blowing kisses.
My first glance at Silom was exactly how @Richardbarrow described it in a re-tweet of my first picture, “Silom looking like a war-zone”. Razor wire laid across the entrance to Central Silom was something I was not used to, my first thought – lets update the twitter world. I thought this was a great picture, but to my amazement, 5 armed soldiers standing behind some more razor wire before the Au Bon Pain shop was even better.
Full of excitement, I think I took about 40 pictures in the space of twenty minutes, lets just say my edge minutes got eaten up like Aston Villa did when they played Chelsea the other week. The ones that were fairly decent were not able to be uploaded to twitpic, I was baffled as to why this was happening. Later on whilst connecting it to my MBP, they had got corrupted. My stomach sank, I had lost some incredible pictures of soldiers and guns, but that was to change over the next few days.
At lunch time, I made my way around Silom with a restored iPhone ready for action, making my way down Pat-Pong and along the silom road towards the BTS, I got some fantastic shots of all the soldiers, guns and ammunition. They got put straight on twitter as soon as they were taken and I was happy with my amateurish journalism.
Monday night came around and I was off to the BTS to see all the commotion between the Army and the redshirts. Honestly, you could not walk around one corner of the BTS skywalk without seeing a green clothed man with a live weapon. The main guns that were spotted were Shotguns and M16’s, only on the Wednesday did I spot certain soldiers with my favorite gun, the m4.
The skywalk, that is now blocked off, was actually fully functional with people able to stroll up and down as they please. Armed guards were set up with DIY posts made from cut out plastic strips. They would just stare down the small whole made in the Blackened out netting like lifeless soldiers. I got my first look at the Redshirts situated opposite the Silom road, but without one of the most viewed pictures on my twitpic, the famous Bamboo fortification.
Tuesday came around and I was straight into Silom, It was a weird atmosphere to say the least, regular people out selling sandwiches, moo ping and fruit – but next to them stand soldiers holding riot shields behind razor wire. You could say the Silom people were used to it, if they were not and shaking inside, they did a pretty good job of hiding it. The soldiers were mostly smiling when they could, but under the heat during this incredibly hot summer we are having, they were far from happy. Can you imagine being in all of that gear, holding up a riot shield in this heat? My head gets like a swimming pool from just walking up Pat-Pong one time, and then you still have to fight off all the taxi’s wanting to take you to the best looking girls in BKK.
I saw one girl give some water to a bunch of soldiers the night before, I thought it was quite kind of her, but this morning I saw multiple bags of food donated to a group of soldiers by a women. This was to increase during the next few days, as I walked through Silom each day – every person was either giving food or flowers to soldiers on the sidelines.
Lunchtime came and the next two hours were incredible to see from a first persons perspective. Standing underneath the BTS taking some shots of soldiers, I was starting to see some large banners appear along the street. “We understand you, but don’t Agree” they stated, this was the rise of the “No Colors” within Silom, and did they rise fast! From what I remember, it took them about 25 minutes to all congregate along and in the middle of the silom road. They looked very amateurish, all business men and women obviously from the silom workplaces, but a few minutes later the speaker arrived. It was exactly as I had seen on the UDD TV, one speaker stands up on a truck with speakers and shouts a few words, the crowd goes wild either waving flags or clapping their clappers.
That afternoon, I was browsing twitter as usual, the words Bamboo and sharpening came up a lot in peoples tweets, this concerned me. @tulsathit gave a tweet about the reds sharpening bamboo sticks, with a picture via a tweeter. Later on, from another tweeter, the arrangements of the Bamboo was actually to create a fence! I was shocked to see this and really wanted to view it up close, my wishes were to be granted! I wondered off down Silom taking pictures as normal, but thought I will take a wonder past the BTS to see the reds, what do I see – the Bamboo fort I just seen on twitter only minutes ago. Without thinking, I raced over to take a picture, I was too far away at the silom side of the Sala-Daeng intersection so I decided to cross to the middle for a better shot. It was still not close enough, hesitantly, I made my way over to the renowned Red Base.
I thought to myself, I’m here now – lets go a bit further, bearing in mind I have never been close to any rally site before, and I’m talking never, so this was a new turf for me (My mother would have a heart attack if she read this). After getting my favorite picture of the bamboo fence from below, I ventured in to the red camp to get some more pics before it got dark. I was right behind the front line and there was a strange gap between the main reds and the Bamboo fence people. Everyone was in high spirits, I guess they had just made a huge fortification around their base so they were a bit giddy about that. Walking around the place for five minutes was enough for me, I was getting some strange looks from not the nicest looking people, so I made like a tree, fast! Outside the camp, I saw what I had read on the birthplace of news these day (twitter if you hadn’t got that yet), the black shirted red guards. Not only were they very help full when trying to cross the road, they were just kids, could not of been over 17 or 18 years old.
Well, looking back on the two days, there was always an increase in something – first it was the increase of army within the area. Second was the Red shirts with their impressive Bamboo fortification, Wednesday saw the rise of the Police. After only spotting very few of the infamous black uniformed Thai Police on Monday and Tuesday, that was to change – they were to come in numbers, large numbers. Strangely enough, first platoon of police I see, all wearing red scarfs? This baffled me, there must of been about 4 rows of 20 police standing with Riot shields wearing red, it just did not make any sense.
I thought I would venture in to the Red Base while at this side of Silom and it was a much safer atmosphere that the night before. Only about 20% of the numbers that were there previously, in high spirits, dancing and singing to the Soldiers across the street. While taking a picture for the tweeple (people on twitter) who were up at the unearthly hour, a 70 year old women came up to me shouting democracy, then proceeded to rant to me about their visions and how the Army were bad people. As I was a cat in a dogs kennel, I just nodded and smiled while trying to walk on like I was in a rush, I really was not in the mood for a debate at that location as I am completely neutral in this situation.
Lunch time came around and I was expecting the same small protest underneath the BTS, I was very wrong to make that assumption. The numbers compared to the day before had at-least doubled, much more organized and looked like a proper protest. The speaker (still remains unknown) that was on top of the truck on Tuesday, was back again, but in a suit looking very professional hyping up the crowd extremely well. Getting right in the middle of this rally for pictures was extremely easy, just crossing the road got you in to the flag waving crowd. They had an awesome voice, which I guess was intensified by them being underneath a huge bridge structure made of concrete (done on purpose, I don’t know).
Afternoon came, I wish everyone reading this could of been there at the point in time, as hard as it to explain in words – I will try to describe the atmosphere that built up over the next four hours. I will use pictures a bit more as they can help depict the story a little bit better (but still not suffice).
Once I had heard that all of the offices near the ChitLom area had been told to shut up and send their workers home (through twitter again, can you see how good this network is), I knew something was up. @WizardofWindsor had made some very good predictions through the #redshirt hash-tags, boy was he right on some levels. I rushed down to the intersection where I had been in the morning to find even more police lined up in rows along the road. As tweeted about 5 minutes before, the No Colors had proceeded to take their rally right opposite the red shirts, such a clever idea, not. What did they think would come from this, that the redshirts would give up after hearing about 300 business people wave flags and shout “Ook Pei” several thousand times. No, it really did not, they were literally the RedShirts opposition for the day, again – another day, another stand off.
What made me go over to the red shirts was just pure excitement, the atmosphere right now was getting very hyper. Each side was trying to fight each other by vocal force, at this point (6pm), the No Colors were pretty loud, but reds had huge speakers so they were heard by all. Talk about being in the right place at the right time, just as I walk over to the red shirts, they all start jumping off their fence!
They proceeded to create a human shield in front of their bamboo fence, the amount of reporters with their green bands around their arms (yes, I do want one) was incredible. I counted about 30 running over at that time, but I was happy with my pictures as they were going straight to twitter for all to see. I managed to climb up the police box within the Intersection (only with Red Shirts present could you do that) and get a great shot of the Red Shirts forming their human line, and what a sight it was, they meant business.
I laughed at a reply on twitter I got to the picture above by @10027586 “F*c*, he’s a Man United fan. That’s it, send the army in!”, I didn’t even see that he was wearing a Man U top, being a Liverpool Fan – I probably would of not posted him up! People were starting to re-tweet my pictures and comments and then came all the followers. I realized I was practically the only person on twitter in the bangkok circle tweeting pics and updating from Silom at this point in time, so I tried my best to get all the best shots and news to the tweeple.
Walking back and forth from the reds base was quite strange, they pretty much had black guards walking people from one side to the other, also giving water to any farang taking pictures of them (score!). When moving back to the other side of the “war-zone”, the police forces had definitely increased since I was over there 30 minutes before.
Whilst taking pictures of the police, I noticed the group of No Colors was increasing, taking up the left side of the silom road now. They were getting loud also, with very angry old women shouting some swear words that I am sure they would not be expressing in their workplace! Whilst walking back to take some more pictures of the No Colors, I could feel something was different when looking at the crowd – oh yeah, the police had pretty much surrounded them.
The next part of the night took me by surprise (considering the circumstances, it really did) as it did many people. While standing to the left side of the MRT entrance, I was squashed enough by people trying to get past. Holding up my iphone with my macbookpro in my rucksack, I was finding it hard to balance, which surprised me when I was able to get this next shot. *BANG*, everyone screams, people are looking around and ducking down thinking gunshots are about to start hurtling over them from each side. I even saw two people start crying as they could not move whilst being sucked into the crowd below the MRT, a sorrowful sight to say the least.
All hell breaks loose at this point, people rush to the MRT to get cover and out of the way of bullets that they believe are being shot just 30m from them. People work out it was just a firework set off from the Red Shirts and the tension is lowered severely. One thing that I could not understand, about a minute after the firework was let off and people started running for the MRT, the guards went and locked the doors to it, causing more commotion – not the best thing to do in that situation.
At this point in time, It was starting to get dark, people that were not wanting to be a part of the protest were getting the hell out of there. People were getting uneasy with the No Colors, as they saw hundreds of police pretty much surround them in a L shape form. During the time spent in-front of the No Colors crowd, they were getting restless, all being squashed in to a small space by the police with riot shields. You can imagine what they were thinking at this time, “police are surrounding us, whats going on!?”. I can safely say that after this point in time, the police were then hated from both sides, not the best time to be serving your city as a cop! Later on that everning, post’s from @ohocita proved this as they were causing problems with the police, telling them to get out of there. I cant even imagine how different things could of been if the police were not present.
Talking to one freelance reporter, he had been there since 3pm, with his large camera and makeshift boom pole. He was much hotter than I was, he had a helmet on which I envied very much. I asked if he needed some water to which he replied, “no, the reds gave me some, but if you have a cold bear in that rucksack I will gladly accept it”. We both laughed and went on our way, it was nice to see people were still keeping their spirits high whilst in the heat.
Banners were starting to fly around the crowd as a pickup truck arrived with them, they were pretty simple ones – nothing like the huge plastic ones seen the previous day beneath the BTS. “Enough”, “Give back our city!” and “yes to Democracy, No to red terrorist”. By this time it was dark, I could see a few tourists, standing across the street thinking this was a tourist attraction, starting to leave as the noise level picked up.
I did not dare move over to the red side, one tweet from @djocto stuck in my head after reading it, “seriously dude, I’m guessing you ain’t dressed in full riot gear, nor armed with a bamboo spear – u know what could happen any sec…”. Over the course of the next hour, about five fireworks were set off from the redshirts, this did not scare anyone by now. Instead of screaming and panic, the No Colors would reply with a huge roar of laughter and cheering after the sound of the whoosh. After the redshirts had heard this, I guess they gave up on trying to cause panic and despair on the opposition.
Whilst walking around, I met up with my friend Kris, he was there simply because he was having lunch and got caught up in the rally that moved all the way over to the intersection. As you can imagine, by this time, the traffic going in and out of Silom was at a complete standstill. The lanes going out towards the Rama IV road could not move, people were in the middle of the road and also soldiers were pretty much blocking it off. The other side coming in to Silom was now broken down to one lane of traffic, mobile rails were creeping forward since 5pm and had now reached the half way point in the road.
I really could not believe my ears at this point, after living in Thailand for 3 years plus, you pick up a fair few swear words. All I heard from 8pm onwards were these three insults: i-Kwai, i-hea and my favorite but also one of the worst, e-sat! Now, I am sure you would expect this from everyone at this point of the night, but what I saw next was not right at all.
While standing at the back, one father dressed, ironically in yellow, teaching his son and daughter how to protest against the reds. Not only were they shouting I-Kwai, he got them to shout the other two as-well. It was a sad sight to see these kids that probably have no idea what they are doing there, or even what what Thaksin has done, to be out on the street, late at night shouting these god awful words.
At about 9pm, I was starting to feel a bit faint and decided it was time to pack up shop and go home. With only one bottle of water in my system, I made my way to the BTS to get back home, I managed to get a nice shot of the Skywalk stairs before I left, as It looked pretty scary up there. Razor wire blocking it off half way up with soldiers standing there with their guns ready for anyone running up.
I was following the action from my trusty iPhone from the train when a message popped up from a anti PAD twitter account (Pro-Red), stating that I was a Anti-red and posing as Media at the Silom site. This is one of the many tweets sent out, “WARNING pro-PAD activists are posing as media – they are anti-Red @ohohcita @dany_k @10027586 WARNING”. I am not sure how long this account was up for but it got quite a few messages sent out before it was deleted.
Now, the night before where I had been uploading pictures of the reds base & fort created another perspective from someone. While on the BTS Tuesday night, I received quite an insulting tweet from a random tweeter. “@Dany_k sorry but after seeing your photos seems like you’re Red and if not then you must be their fan club”. So, after taking pictures of the red shirts, I am assumed to be red, after I take pictures of the No-Colors (who have not been confirmed to be PAD yet”, I am PAD. I cant win!
After reading the tweets and news from the reporters still there on the ground, my father was happy that I was safe and not caught up in the stone throwing and sling shot fiasco that happened around 11pm onwards. Kudos to those that managed to report all this information, while I was sitting at home with my air con blasting away watching the latest lost! There are some great articles for what happened in the period after I had left so try reading them!
The next day, walking down Silom road gave me a strange feeling that I was not expecting, calmness. How can a street that was full of angry, deafening crowds, become such an untroubled, placid area. Obviously, my first stop along this small round trip of the aftermath spot was the Golden Arches that apparently got hit. I had heard that windows were smashed and expecting the worst, but only one single glass door had been damaged.
My last vision of the area surrounding the No Colors had all these police between the intersection and the Redshirts, witnessing this mornings bunch of police was such a shock in comparison to the night before, I could not believe my eyes. Just a small group of police, no more than 20, were standing at the MRT entrance looking very tired and hot.
Another surprise was the bamboo fort, not one red shirt was standing on top of it, if you take in to account what we were seeing last night at the red base compared to the view Thursday morning, it was very unexpected. I have two theories, either they are so hungover that they did not wake up in time to get up and shake it on the fence, or they simply out of numbers at this time of the morning.
Outside the Au Bon Pain that was used as a bunker by some journalists last night, was a sign stating they were to close at 9pm today. I feel sorry for the 24 hour McDonnell’s staff who have to to stay open during these times, especially being right in the line of fire! Not only was there a lack of police in the area, but only about 4 or 5 unarmed soldiers were present.
Thinking that there was nothing much else to see down silom that I had already encountered, I spotted a strange contraption from the distance. Boy was I in for a treat this morning, on top of an Army truck was a long range acoustic device, LRAD for short, which is used around the world by armies to disperse crowds. Being an Audio engineer, this was really cool to see in real life, but after reading its capabilities, I was not so sure how cool this thing really was. Jackhammers normally get to about 130dB, a jet engine taking off around 150dB, this device can get up to a scary 150dB as well, don’t forget that this thing is directional!
So, Thursday after lunch – I decided to take a wonder down Silom after hearing the No Colors were up to no good, blocking traffic. I was not surprised that JS100 radio was incorrect on that assumption, but they were simply parading around the road, making sure one lane was open for cars to pass by. As usual, I traveled a little further to the red base to see if they had surfaced, but yet again – no one to be seen. Only guards and reds dressed like soldiers there outside the fort, making sure everything was kept normal. I tried to get over to the other side from the middle, but he said, “Mai Dai Krup”. So I asked, “Tai roop dai mai krup?”, he nodded and I got a picture of the bamboo fort with its new pretty blue netting, how cute!
Walking back through silom, I spotted that the police had switched sides of the Silom road, it seems that they want to protect McDonald’s rather than the MRT across the street. Pretty strange as I think protecting the public transportation would be a higher priority than a worldwide food chain.
So thats my week so far within this war-zone that used to be Silom, I have had some great experiences with Thai people, red shirts and the army. Saw my fair share of guns and also levels of hatred people can get to at other human beings. I really find it ironic with both sides wanting democracy, but both have different path’s, we all have to live here right? As I said last night, I really do not see how this situation can be resolved, if its going to be like that every night, then its going to get bad. We will see tonight whether its going to get out of hand again.
Thank you to all the tweeple (people on twitter) that have followed me and re-tweeted to keep up-to date with the action around here, you guys are fantastic. I will try to keep up the pictures and tweets with the situation going on over here but at this moment in time, nothing much is happening.
Link to Thursday Night – The Real War-Zone
Follow me live on Twitter @Dany_K for latest news and pictures from Silom, the front line!