Today’s daily recon revealed a surprise: three songtows were seen delivering water to the Ratchaprasong area this morning. It was unexpected because I had been under the impression that the government was trying to put a stranglehold on the area to starve out the protesters. A German guy I met said that he saw more trucks the night before come in with food. As we walked together at Ratchaprasong he was pointing out running water and the electricity of the stop lights. He did say that the internet and the cell phone coverage had been blocked.
He was quite an interesting fellow, who shall remain anonymous, because he lives off of $250 per month living in a 3000 baht apartment and goes to Rahmkanghaeng University. He tutors in German online and has been living with the protesters at Ratchaprasong. Talk about random. He says he believes in the Red Shirt movement and wants to stand with them. Unbelievable. He’s the second farang I’ve met who has claimed that he’s been camped out with the Reds.
Ratchaprasong’s numbers have dwindled, but this could only mean that it was the daytime and that the crowds would came back again at night light it has always been for two months. Perhaps I’ll take a peek tonight if I feel it is safe. It gets a little bit more risky every day now. Many of the people I have been seeing at Ratchaprasong recently have not been the types that, well, defended Moscow against Hitler’s tyranny. Beggars, the elderly, toothless middle age women who look like Mike Tyson on their Red ID cards. And yes, I did see some kids. What a tragedy to see two-year-old kids there. The Red Guards are fewer at the barricades.
I spent most of the rest of the day right in my own neighborhood at Din Daeng and Ratchaprarop. The map below shows the protest area and also where I live:
(Courtesy Bangkok Post via Newley.com)
I live right off the road in between Din Daeng and Victory Monument. The soldiers are currently holding ground at Ratchaprarop and Soi Rangnam and they are shooting down towards Din Daeng where red shirts are burning tires and shooting off rockets (see gallery). The picture below is of protesters who were shot yesterday:
Apologies for the lack of a clear picture. These types of pictures greet Thai people every day in Thai newspapers. Ratchaprarop has since been declared a “live fire zone.” I’ll remember this next time I want to venture out there for my daily afternoon siesta.
So it’s been the smell of burning tires, the sight of thick, black billowing smoke, the sound of intermittent gun fire/fire crackers/small rockets, the hunkering down behind poles/sandbags/natural barriers, the images of people crowded together in alleys, on the sides of roads, crouching down, looking, waiting, being startled. It’s always a risk to be on my bike zooming around, without a bullet proof vest or helmet, as I get closer to the action, as I’m always weary of being hit by sniper fire from a tall, unfinished building across the street. The protesters always point towards this building. I am surrounded by international photographers and journalists with their huge cameras and that “I’m not from Thailand even though I could pass because I’m Asian” look. Most of these Thai red shirt guys are motorcycle taxi drivers and the like putting down Red Bulls and just living moment to moment.
There are moments that are quite frightening like the other day when the sound of these M16’s went off and I was in the wrong place I actually heard the bullet hit metal and it was quite unsettling as I have always heard gunshots into the air with blanks or rubber bullets. Sometimes, like today, as I decided to go down a small side street to investigate a small courtyard opening into Ratchaprasong, a small crowd which quickly became bigger started leaving this opening and started to run down this alley towards me to which I simply turned around in horror not knowing why only to be directed to calm down and turn around. I learned later that soldiers had appeared across the street instead of down the street and that they had begun shooting from this new position. People were hit.
Nightfall brings with it a brooding silence, darkness, shadowy figures illuminated by the fires. Street lights shot out by slingshots. A dark, abandoned street, people in small groups of six or seven at each opening, crouching down, looking for something. At Victory Monument a crowd has gathered many of whom are the ones now locked out of the main rally site at Ratchaprasong. A songtow with a speaker phone and an improvised antenna looking more like something that would be on top of a home in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. A small TV with a barely visible and audible rendering of the main stage speakers at Ratchaprasong. No one can really understand it, but you get a sense that the people feel it and relish hearing it, especially now as the military slowly encroaches. The elderly, women, and children have reportedly been asked to leave. Food and water is being cut off. 30 men each guard the barricades instead of 500.
And yet they stay to fight and resist. To die.
It’s 10:18pm and I shall take leave to take one more small gander at my street. I’ve always felt that I can feel things in the air with these protesters. And then I will go to sleep and wake up tomorrow to see if they’ve gone into Ratchaprasong.