I arrived in Bangkok on April 10, 2010 and I just had one night there before my morning flight to Myanmar (Burma). I arrived in the early afternoon and was very excited to be there, hard to believe that 30 hours ago I had been on the other side of the world.
Grabbing my back pack I headed to the bus stop. The bus was full of travelers from all over the world coming back to Bangkok or just arriving. We had heard about The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) Thai: แนวร่วมประชาธิปไตยต่อต้านเผด็จการแห่งชาต ิ; นปช or commonly known as the “Red Shirt” protest, but nobody was quite sure how big they were or what part of the city they had gathered. Before I left there was little information in our media. The protest began to get heavy on March 14, 2010 and the crowds were growing every day. The city was full of people marching. Eventually the bus driver gave up and asked if we could walk the rest of the way. On my way to find Khaosan I got lost and unfortunately didn’t have a map. Two women that were part of the protest came up to me, asking if I was lost, I told them “yes”. They walked with me to my guesthouse and told me when I should snap a photo along the way; they were so kind to help me out. When we got to my hotel they told me to put my stuff down and grab my camera. The women took me down to Democracy Monument where a lot of people had gathered. The streets were packed, everybody was so nice asking where I had come from and also educating me on why they were protesting.
The orange skies turned to blue and night was descending, but the protesters were still on the streets, I thought it might be best to walk back towards my guesthouse. As I was walking back the crowd was getting heavier and heavier, making it harder to walk. Suddenly teargas was thrown into the crowd and gunfire erupted ahead of me. People were screaming and trying to run but it was hard with the tear gas. I froze, trying to figure out which way to run. My eyes were burning and then all of the sudden I felt a hand grab my arm and pull me out of the crowd. The next thing I knew a Thai woman and I were running down an alley. Once we got to a safe spot she gave me some water to splash on my face. Suddenly she left running back to the crowd. I wish I could’ve have properly thanked her for getting me to safety.
Khaosan Road which was usually packed with tourist and party goers, was deserted except for two food stands at the end of the road. I went to a travel agency to book a taxi for the morning only to find, the office was packed full of stranded travelers. All buses had been canceled leaving the city because of the uncertainly of what the night would bring.
I left to grab a bite to eat at one of the few open restaurants. I was finally getting a home cooked Thai dinner, the seafood was so fresh and there was a flower in my juice for decoration, everything seemed calm at that moment… Then all of sudden a group protestors and tourist came running in fear down the street, everyone that was eating quickly moved back. It looked like the push between the police and protestors was moving closer. At that time my taxi driver called me and asked if we could leave at midnight not knowing if the fighting would get worse. He told me I was his only fare all day and if I could please go with him. I agreed knowing that would make my parents happier too. When he arrived he quickly changed out of his “Red Shirt” and put on a black t-shirt. He had me sit in the front with him and asked if we could stop at the hospital first, because he was concerned about some of his friends. He said, “if any police ask you we are checking on your friends not mine”. He was gone for about twenty minutes. The streets around the hospital were chaotic, filled with people trying to find their friends and family. The sounds of sirens filled the air and every time a new ambulances arrived the crowd rushed in to see if it was someone they knew. I sat there quietly in the car and took in what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe how it had turned to this? The taxi driver came back relieved that he had found his friends, and telling me that he was going back as soon as he took me to the airport. I offered to get another taxi, but he wanted to take me. It took about an hour and half to get out of the city, some streets were closed so we had to go around and there were hardly any cars on the road which is strange for the bustling city of Bangkok. The only cars we saw were ambulances taking wounded people to the hospital. I arrived at the airport around 2am. It was packed with other people getting there extra early for their morning flights. I thanked the driver and wished him well.
Twenty-one people had lost their lives that night. It was the first night that the protest had taken a violent turn. Everyone gathered around the televisions in the safety of the airport, watching the violence unfold, I couldn’t believe how bad it had gotten as we watched video of people being killed and injured, seeing the streets soaked in blood I realized how sad it was. The military eventually retreated to stop the bloodshed, but no side had won. It was one of the darkest days in Thailand.
I returned to Bangkok on April 30th and once again spent just one night there. The tone was different from the 10th of April, the protestors had moved to the financial district, there was a barricade built out of tires and sharpened bamboo sticks. I tried to get into the camp and was quickly told to leave. They invited me to come back at night but knowing that in the past couple of weeks the protest could get violent at night, I declined. I snapped a couple of photos of the people who would let me photograph them and moved along.
Now that I’m home I have been watching all of the events unfold and I don’t know how everything could have taken such a violent turn. It was once a peaceful protest and now people were being driven away by tanks and guns.
(I do not have any photos of the violence from the 10th or any other night after that)
To view the rest of images from Bangkok, please click here: