Bangkok Revisited

March 2010

The Red Shirts

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Wednesday 16 March 2010

The traffic on the road ahead of us was stopped dead. We were in a taxi coming from the airport in Bangkok, Thailand after our flight from Bali Tuesday afternoon, 15 March. Next to us were two pickup trucks with red T-shirted people riding in the back. They were heading for the street protests in downtown Bangkok. The street ahead of us was closed to traffic. Police were on the street corners looking rather bored. We had to take a detour to reach our hotel, right in the heart of the main protest area, but that was our only inconvenience. There was no violence. 

More shops than usual for a weekday were closed but the demonstrations so far seemed to maintain a festive air. We crossed the main boulevard, Jalan Ratchadamneon Klang on our way to a restaurant for dinner our first day. It was easier than usual to cross the street because it was blocked off to traffic. Booths with food and T-shirts for sale were set up along both sides of the boulevard. Several women were giving foot massages to the weary participants while loudspeakers broadcast a speech by one of the leaders. Police were in evidence but were merely standing guard. A tuk tuk with three backpacker passengers were stopped in front of a group of police security guards. The driver was snapping a photo of the young women passengers posing with the guards, who didn't object.

The next morning we returned to the JLRatchadamneon Klang, this time with our cameras. People were eating breakfast from the street vendors and napping in the shade of the booths beside the street. Police were still in place at the street corners. One of the leaders was trying to encourage his followers over the loudspeakers. The leader turned the loudspeakers over to a monk who began to intone morning prayers. Many of the faithful on the street stopped to say their prayers along with the monk. Other than that it was a quiet beginning to the day. We were not around to see the infamous blooding of the doorway of the unloved current leader. The rest of the day we were in areas of the city untouched by the protests. We went for a ferry ride down the Chao Phraya River and lunched on good noodle soup in Chinatown.

We left by taxi for the airport after dinner that evening to catch our flight to Paris. Once again barricades on several streets caused us to make detours. At two intersections small groups were parading in the street to the cheers of onlookers. It took a little longer to get to the airport but we never felt threatened.

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