THAILAND

(A monk walks along a red shirt barricade in Bangkok's business district on April 25/Sukree Sukplang)

At the sprawling red shirt encampment in central bank, Buddhist monks clad in their distinctive saffron robes mingle with men wearing helmets walking around with sharpened bamboo sticks.

Just about every night, rumours sweep the the sprawling encampment of tents, sounds trucks and makeshift stalls that a long anticipated crackdown is imminent. The men stare at the three-metre barricades made of tyres, bamboo poles and rubble that surround much of the encampment, about the size of a large city park, waiting to pelt soldiers armed with  assault rifles with pellets from their sling shots and thrusts of their bamboo spears.

The monks are there for moral support, and to receive “merit” from the red shirts, who have occupied some of the most expensive real estate in Thailand for the past seven weeks in their campaign for early elections.  “Making merit” involves giving an offering — food, some spare change to a monk — perhaps in the hope of a more accommodating afterlife, should death suddenly intervene. As it well could on the barricades when you’re fending off  automatic weapons fire with a bamboo stick. THAILAND/

(Monk relaxes at red shirt encampment with sharpened stick at his side on April 27/Eric Gaillard)