Monday, 26 April 2010

Silom and the Redshirt Camp: Snapshots

Yesterday I happened to be on Silom, and so walked up the road to take a look at the Sala Daeng redshirt camp. This post is for pictures and observations, not political commentary - there's plenty of that to be found elsewhere online; this post is only intended to document what one person who lives in the area saw, on one afternoon. For any friends reading this outside of Bangkok, I will say this - I felt comfortable walking there because I know the area well and it was the middle of a calm afternoon, and I took these pictures in part to show that while not uniformly pleasant, the atmosphere in Bangkok right now is not the nightmare some outside observers must imagine it to be (and remember, there are plenty of unaffected areas).

As I walked up Silom I passed soldiers stationed on corners and outside banks, cafés, 7-11s. Some alert, some reading papers or dozing in their vehicles.

I glimpsed some of them moving in Patpong, under a sign saying PUSSY. Around Patpong, the usual stalls selling t-shirts, handbags, garish art and wooden frogs/Buddhas/dancers/phalluses were still going, though there was only an occasional browsing tourist - for the first time in my life, I found the sight of them heartening.

Under Sala Daeng station were more soldiers, and plenty of coils of barbed wire cutting the street into sections. Several businesses were closed, but not all, and the open cafés had a fair few patrons. The barricade on the other side of the road was certainly impressive:

I noticed some press guys and ordinary pedestrians, slipping round the side, so followed and found myself in the red camp. It was transformed from the place I'd seen a week ago - signs of people camping out there for a while were apparent, with a toilet bus and piles of litter; the pavement alongside Ratchadamri was a street market, protest gear interspersed with stalls selling food, shirts, underwear. Passed a bus stop converted into a red gear shop, and a TRUTH TODAY coffee stand:

Down at the front of the camp, the protesters had moved quite a way back from the barricade, and people were milling about in the space in front of Lumphini park, listening to speeches on the large speakers or lining up for food. A foreign reporter spoke straight-faced and serious to a camera, while a man with a crude political puppet posed behind him:

On my way out I saw flyers depicting PM Abhisit stuck on pillars with the eyes scratched out; a man shifting a sack of rubbish passed me and said, 'he's a demon'.

I went back to Silom after that, to sit in Coffee Society and write. My fellow patrons were looking up news stories on their laptops, or watching the soldiers on the pavement outside. A French press photographer wearing a helmet, facemask and padded vest came in, ordered an urgent expresso, and left his gear (as well as some cheese) with the staff as he went outside for a smoke. Later he came back and requested his cheese, telling the staff it was good stuff from France and they should try some - that moment won for most surreal of the day.

As it started getting dark and Silom started filling up with riot police, I left, walking by the bamboo fortifications to catch my bus home.

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