Published: April 25th 2010April 14th 2010
The day before I was supposed to be flying to Bangkok it was all over the news that a protest was taking place and that people had been killed. My Dutch friend was already in the city so I emailed him, this is what I got back:
"I'm on my way to Bangkok. But can't get into Bangkok :P Got stuck somewhere halfway between Cambodia and Bangkok. Songkran in Bangkok is cancelled, and it might be hard to get around in the city. Are you still going to catch your flight? And are you planning on spending any time in Bangkok at all?"
"I am in Bangkok and my opinion has changed a lot after today. It's hard to describe but the whole vibe in the city is just amazing. People are lovely, and I'm sure Songkran will be amazing. Streets are closed, they're supplying free water and free food. Guys that look like Che Guevara are driving around on the back of pick up trucks or on motorbikes. The weather is great and there's almost no tourists in Bangkok at the moment. But on the other protest site, it's insane at night. Teargas, gunfire, soldiers,
reds walking around with sharpened bamboo sticks. And lot of people died :( "
"Yesterday night was horror. But today was amazing, and I'm fine over here. It's only five minutes from where the trouble is. A few cops have died, and a few reds died, 19 people in total died. But still the reds are really lovely people they gave me food drinks and merchandise today, just very friendly. Nobody wants you to get hurt. And it's actually an amazing experience, this is going to be big history in Thailand I guess. Don't worry and just come over ;) And if you don't like it, we can easily move to another part of the city. And and....... Songkran is about to start, already got wet today. But to be short, you will be fine here! Keep me posted..."
So I forwarded these to my Mum to give her something solid to worry about for once and jumped on a plane to Bangkok. And it was amazing, the Songkran festival had started and I was utterly soaked getting to the hotel, it was good fun. But to get there I had to go down Khao San
road, where all the shootings were. I was a bit nervous but the street was full of kids with their waterpistols, no fighting (other than waterfights). However, there were still overturned military vehicles all over the street and areas cordoned off where people had been killed, which was really surreal as everyone was going on with the festival all around it. And in the walls you could see the bullet shots. All the locals were looking at it all and so were the tourists, but everything was safe then.
After a day enjoying Songkran my friend and I went to the new area in the commercial district where the red shirts had gathered, and there were thousands of them from all over Thailand. They were really friendly and really welcoming and they all had their kids with them and were setting up camps on the street. We went past a large demonstration with a huge stage and a sign which said "Welcome to Thailand, we just want democracy".
The red-shirts are supporters of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and are protesting against the new government, which they are worried will not treat the poorer people in Thailand's society
Abhisit's six-party coalition government is under intense pressure from upper-class and royalist Thais to rebuff demands from the mostly poor "red shirts". He stuck to an earlier offer to dissolve parliament and call elections in December, a year early.
The army is now warning that it will forcibly disperse thousands of red shirts in a fortified encampment in Bangkok's main shopping district, but it wants to first separate militants from women and children.
There are more photos below