When I first arrived in Bangkok, I stayed in Bang Lamphu, in the north west of Bangkok near the Democracy Monument. The MRT and BTS mass transit lines don’t go out there and – when demonstrations got underway at the Democracy Monument – it became a total killer to travel all the way to Sukhumvit Road, where I work.
The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), known as the ‘Red Shirts’, are now blocking the streets at Ratchaprasong and Silom, an upmarket shopping and business district. For Bangkokians it has become even harder to travel around the city.
Over the last few weeks, the city has also been shaken by a series of bomb blasts. Only a few people have been killed but many have been injured. CNN broadcast a ‘breaking news’ showing the tragedy. The British Embassy has warned against all but essential travel to Bangkok. Everyone from back home is worried and checks up on me every day.
I had a chance to visit Ratchaprasong as I was running an errand for work – otherwise I probably would never have dared go near there. But this visit exposed me to some new sights and left me with rather different opinions.
The Red Shirts’ camp is totally different from how I had imagined. Unlike what is shown on TV, the demonstrators didn’t look at all ferocious. Instead of armed agitators I found family groups.
There are tents, temporary bathrooms and cooking areas, making the Ratchaprasong intersection almost like a little ‘home’. Lots of souvenir vendors were there too, hawking red t-shirts and flip-flops bearing the face of the prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva. Nobody stopped me from taking a look around. In fact, several Red Shirts even posed for photos.
I walked around for a while and found some people gathered around to watch a film about the political confrontation between the Red Shirts and the pro-government Yellow Shirts. They tried to explain to me what they thought about it, but sadly I couldn’t understand much.
The Red Shirts were not violent. They seemed no different from the people I meet every day on the street. Miscommunication is the devil, driving both sides to hell. Red or yellow, or whatever colour, shirt they wear, Thais are still united under one king, one country.
I found this video clip very inspiring. Let’s hope in the near future, everything works out better for Thailand’s future.