Monthly Archives: June 2011

PM Abhisit gets warm welcome in Samut Prakan

All Thai politicians at the moment have a very busy schedule of election campaigning. Most of the candidates only have to campaign in their own constituency. However, the big party list names have been travelling around Thailand in order to help drum up support for local candidates. The other day I told you about my experience when I joined Korn Chatikavanij on the Election Campaign Trail in my local area. Today was the turn of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to visit Samut Prakan.

Korn Chatikavanij is the Finance Minister in the caretaker government. He has a high profile and so he has his own bodyguard. Even so, local police made sure that he had additional security while he toured the constituency. On the other hand, Abhisit is the prime minister and his security detail is always much larger. Samut Prakan police were also out in force today along the entire route. I didn’t get a total but there must have been more than 500 policemen, not including undercover.

PM Abhisit spent nearly four hours travelling around Samut Prakan on top of this converted pick-up truck. When Yingluck arrived at Paknam Market (see here) she came in an air-conditioned SUV. We were all expecting her to arrive on one of the big campaign trucks. However, she did get a big welcome which is what we expected. We were all curious to what kind of greeting the Prime Minister would get. As you can see here, there were just as many people welcoming Abhisit as there were for Yingluck, if not more.

The police were really expecting trouble along the way. Although there were some Red Shirt protesters (see here) they were few in number and scattered. I noticed a number of times police standing guard near anyone that was grouped by the side of the road. I had always thought that motorcycle taxi drivers were Thaksin supporters. So, I wasn’t surprised when we neared one group of drivers and they had three policemen standing around them. But when Abhisit smiled and gave them a “wai” most of them raised ten fingers in support of his party.

Quite a few times during the tour of the province, the campaign truck carrying Abhisit and the local Democrat candidates stopped briefly so that local people could give them flowers. They also gave them water and snacks. At two markets Abhisit got down to have a walk-around and also to give a speech. Immediately he was mobbed by hundreds of people. I am sure that was a nightmare for his security detail. Many people wanted their photo taken with him or wanted to hug or kiss him. And many did much to his embarrassment.

As you can imagine there was a lot of media following Abhisit today. Most of us were on two pick-up trucks. There were also a dozen or so media cars following behind from all the major newspapers and television channels. I was the only foreigner there taking pictures, a fact which wasn’t lost on the Democrat election staff who several times told the crowds, that today news about Abhisit’s visit to Samut Prakan was going around the world as there is someone from the foreign media. Truth be told, I am not even national media. I was just taking these pictures for my local Thai newspaper.

Red Shirts Protest as Abhisit Tours Samut Prakan

This morning, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva continued on his election campaign trail by visiting Samut Prakan. Large areas in the province have been declared “Red Zones” and as a result of a history of shootings, Samut Prakan has already been declared “Thailand’s most likely scene of poll-related violence”. Which is why the police today weren’t taking any chances.

In Samrong there were police stationed along the road at regular intervals. Down the side roads there was at least one policeman guarding every intersection, big or small. They were also guarding the pedestrian bridges. In addition, there were police standing next to any group that might cause trouble. Plain clothes policeman were also driving ahead on motorcycles videoing the crowd. Abhisit’s own bodyguards were often seen scanning the crowds and rooftops.

There weren’t really that many protesters, but the ones that came out were quickly surrounded by security personnel. Most of their banners were about the 91 deaths during the protests last year. In this picture taken at Samrong, the police were whisking this guy away from the route that Abhisit was taking. He wasn’t arrested though the policeman here was telling me to stop taking pictures.

This one-legged Red Shirt wasn’t moved away but he was quickly surrounded by security personnel. Abhisit passed here a few minutes later and didn’t even see him.  Abhisit has come out in denouncing the bullying tactics of the Red Shirts. Personally I think people have a right to speak their mind. Isn’t that what a democracy is all about?As long as they are doing it in an orderly manner surely they should be allowed to show their banners to Abhisit?

Although there were Red Shirts out protesting Abhisit’s visit to Samut Prakan, there was no reported violence and certainly no eggs being thrown from what I saw. On the contrary, by far the majority of people gave Abhisit a warm welcome. I was also taking pictures during Yingluck’s visit to Paknam last week. I would say that Abhisit had just as many supporters here as Yingluck, if not more. I will post pictures of Abhisit’s visit to Samut Prakan soon on

Korn Chatikavanij on the Election Campaign Trail

One of the most charismatic politicians in Thailand at the moment is Korn Chatikavanij. He used to be an investment banker and is now currently the caretaker Finance Minister. Like other high profile politicians, he has been travelling the country in order to help local candidates in the Democrat Party with their election campaigns. On Friday 17th May 2011, Korn came to Samut Prakan in support of the local Democrat Candidate Saracha Weerachatwattana.

Last week, Yingluck from the Phue Thai party visited Samut Prakan and had a very warm welcome (see here). Which is not surprising as many areas in Samut Prakan have been designated “Red Zones”. The election posters that have been defaced the most here are for the Democrat Party. On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban came to our province and had an egg thrown at him. Last month, Pheu Thai MP Pracha Prasopdee was shot in an apparent assassination plot. So, I guess it is not surprising that Samut Prakan has been declared “Thailand’s most likely scene of poll-related violence”.

After taking pictures of Yingluck’s visit to Samut Prakan for my local newspaper, I was keen to get some pictures of a Democrat politician. So, I sent Korn a private message on Twitter and asked when he was coming to Samut Prakan. As luck would have it, he said that he was coming that very week. With Yingluck, I only took pictures of her at Paknam Market. But Korn suggested that I join him on the pick-up trucks for the tour of the constituency. I had never done that before so I jumped at the chance. He told me to meet everyone at the Esso petrol station in Samut Prakan.

When I arrived, the local Democrat Candidate Saracha Weerachatwattana was already there. She was discussing with the police the route that they would be taking around the constituency. Everything had been planned in great detail in advance in order to secure the safety of Saracha and Korn. Apparently they hadn’t requested a police presence but after the incident with the egg-throwing on Monday they weren’t taking any chances. Even the provincial police chief was there and he told me that there were twenty policemen here at the start of the parade with a total 200 policemen being utilized along the entire route.

In the parade there were two pick-up trucks that had been converted to carry the candidate and the Democrat Party support staff. As you can see, they are also fitted out with a sound system. These pick-up trucks have been driving around town every day for the last few weeks playing music and broadcasting political messages.  Out in front were a dozen people on motorcycles flying banners of the Democrat Party and also the Thai flag. Surrounding them were the police escort as well as plain-clothes policemen videoing the crowd.

Korn and Saracha jumped on the front pick-up truck and I went on the rear truck. For most of them time they were too far in front for me to take any pictures and I couldn’t really see what was going on. However, every time they made a U-turn, I had a photo opportunity to get some good pictures. Korn was waving and wai-ing people by the side of the road and Saracha raised ten fingers symbolizing the number for their party. Korn had a big smile on his face for the majority of the time regardless whether anyone smiled back at him or not.

Along the way we went through several housing estates and also stopped at two different markets. At these places Korn had the opportunity to speak to the crowd about the policies of his party. At the same time the Democrat support staff were handing out pamphlets. At each market there was a reasonable number of onlookers who gathered round to listen to his speech. Though the majority of the people carried on with their business. Like with Yingluck last week, quite a few people came forward to give them roses and other flowers.

After the stop at the first market I switched pick-up trucks and jumped on the one with Korn and Saracha. My purpose was to get some pictures from a different angle but it also painted a very different picture for me. When I was in the truck at the end of the parade I hardly noticed any public reaction. It felt like he was almost wasting his time as people either didn’t know who he was or just didn’t care. After all, these pick-up trucks pass through here often and people have stopped paying them any attention.

Now that I was in the lead pick-up truck with Korn, I could see how much he was working the crowd. He was continually looking around and either waving or giving the Thai wai. He was very energetic despite the fact that he had just flown back in the morning from up north. Quite a few people, when they recognized him, smiled and either gave a “wai” back or raised their ten fingers. I was surprised with the positive reaction he was getting. Very different to Suthep’s visit to Samut Prakan.

The impression that I got was that not all of these people were Democrat voters but were just genuinely pleased to see him. Thai people are naturally very polite and kind to visitors. So, for many of them it was probably an automatic reaction to smile back. But, the majority of the people that we passed  just gave him blank stares either out of hatred or indifference. Which is very different to elections in the past. Politics has changed so much now and people are far more serious about their affiliations. Even people from the same family are having heated arguments. This picture shows some of the election posters for the Democrats which have had Abhisit’s face cut out.

It is difficult to gauge how useful people like Korn are for the local candidates. They have a very tight schedule and even though Korn only visited one constituency there was still a large area to cover. Korn travelled around on the pick-up truck for nearly two hours. When Yingluck came to Samut Prakan she spent most of the day visiting various areas. She started in Phra Pradaeng, then Samrong, Paknam and finally Bang Phli. In the late afternoon she drove up to Ayutthaya. But, to be fair to Korn, he still has to run the Finance Ministry. Anyway, other ministers, including the prime minister, will be coming to campaign in Samut Prakan soon. I doubt if anyone else from Phue Thai will come again.

I had a really great time going around Samut Prakan in the Democrats campaign trucks. It was very interesting for me to see the reaction of local people to Korn and his party. It was also interesting for me to compare this with the reaction that Yingluck got from the people. Politics aside, at the end of the day, Korn is a warm, generous and passionate man who loves the work that he does. He has no ambitions of being prime minister and he said that he would be perfectly happy spending the remainder of his political life assisting Abhisit in a Democrat led government. When he entered politics in 2004, he made a promise that he would only stay for 15 years. He says that he has full intention of keeping that promise.

This is a personal blog with my observations and views of things that I see in my every day life in Thailand. I do it for fun. I don’t sell these pictures though the ones taken in Samut Prakan sometimes appear in the Paknam Post newspaper.

Royal Thai Air Force Museum in Bangkok

One of the less known museums in Bangkok is the Royal Thai Air Force Museum. It can be found on Phahon Yothin Road which is on the eastern side of  Don Muang Airport. I was in the area at the weekend visiting Rangsit Floating Market and so took the opportunity to drop in on this museum. It is a great place to come for anyone with an interest in aviation. Not all of the air planes are Thai made and they have some surviving aircraft from all around the world.

The history of aviation in Thailand dates back to 6th February 1911 when Mr. Charles Van Den Born, a Belgian pilot, made the first demonstration flight in Bangkok. Three Thai officers were then selected to receive training in France. While they were there, the Thai Government ordered eight aircraft. After their graduation, the airmen and aircraft returned to Thailand in late 1913. On 29th December the first public test flight took place with Thai pilots. The aircraft in this picture dates back to the 1930’s and is a Curtiss Hawk III, believed to be the only surviving one in the world.

The Royal Thai Air Force museum was set up in 1952 with the purpose of collecting and restoring defense articles of different periods including equipment and aircraft in use during the early period of Thai aviation history up to the present. The RTAF museum was first located at a hangar west of Don Muang airfield and was not opened to the public until 27th March 1959. The present museum was constructed in 1968 at a total cost of 6,635,000 Baht. The museum was officially opened to the public on 24th January 1969.

The exhibits at the Royal Thai Air Force museum feature many types of aircraft rarely found anywhere else in the world. Many of them were in service during the war and  played a vital role in the safeguarding of Thailand’s independence. The numerous victory Medals awarded to the RTAF pilots attest to the bravery of the Thai pilots. The Royal Thai Air Force has tried to develop the museum to ensure that it has a complete historical record of the Royal Thai Air Force. In addition to the aircraft on display, there are also armaments and various uniforms.

The Royal Thai Air Force museum is open every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. except on national holidays. Entrance is free. On the premises there is also a shop selling souvenirs to do with aviation. The following is a map showing the location of the Royal Thai Air Force Museum in Bangkok:

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How to get there:

Buses no. 34, 39, 114, 356
Air Conditioned Buses no. 3, 21, 22, 25, 34, 39, 114, 356

Rangsit Floating Market

One of the latest markets for people from Bangkok can be found at Rangsit Floating Market. It is just north of the city on the Rangsit-Nakhon Nayok Road. It is just a short distance from Future Park and is not too far from Dream World.  I went there for the first time at the weekend. It has been open since March 2009 but I hadn’t heard of it until someone on Twitter suggested that I should go there. I am glad that I did.

It’s not really a floating market like foreign tourists would imagine it. It is true that there are a couple of boat vendors selling food. However, the majority of food is sold from normal stalls. Having said that, technically it is a floating market as the whole thing is on a series of linked flat barges moored to the banks. Anyway, it is good, open-aired, clean and has a nice atmosphere. For a weekend I was actually expecting large crowds, but it was to our advantage that, unlike other markets, we were easily able to find some seating.

I usually say that you judge a good food stall by the crowds. I think that in this case we have some delicious food being sold in a great location but suffering greatly from bad promotion to the public. I don’t think that many people outside of Rangsit really know about it. Which is a pity as the food was good. I don’t normally eat that much but I had three full meals here. Two of them were from this vendor that sold 12 different kinds of pad thai. My favourite was pad thai made with green papaya (see here). Very unusual but surprisingly good. The other was crispy noodle pad thai (see here).

It is probably not worth going all the way here for this one market. But, you could visit here on the way back from or to Dream World. Or if you are going to the shopping mall at Future Park. On this trip we also visited the Thai Royal Air Force Museum which is not that far away. However, I definitely want to go back again to try some more of the variations of pad thai. Noodles are also very famous here. In fact, they have a museum dedicated to the history of noodles. Unfortunately this is only in Thai.

The floating market is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can get there by buses 538, 559 or 188.

Map showing the location of Rangsit Floating Market:

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