Life inside “red” Bangkok

April 27, 2010

Anti-government "red shirt" protesters gather in front of a closed down shopping center in the main shopping district in Bangkok, April 14, 2010.  REUTERS/Vivek PrakashBangkok’s retail and commercial heart has been under occupation for 7 weeks. Anti-government “red shirt” protesters have occupied the Rajprasong intersection, which is bound by glitzy high-end shopping malls and five star hotels, many of which have been forced to close. But inside the stronghold of the red shirts, business continues in a strange but usual way.

I’ve been in Bangkok for just on 3 weeks, part of the multimedia team covering everything from anti-government and pro-government rallies to bloody clashes and grenade attacks right in the commercial district. Pictures and video show Bangkok out of control and in chaos. I want to provide an insight into ‘Red Bangkok’, a square mile self-sustained area that the “red shirts” have taken over and promise to stay in indefinitely.

Each morning at 5.30am, I walk towards the reds’ fortified zone to look for pictures in morning light. Surrounding the area is a tribal-looking fence built from tires and bamboo poles, something that belongs more in a post-apocalyptic movie than real-life Bangkok.

An anti-government 'red shirt' protester holds a golf club while standing on a tire inside their barricade, built with bamboo poles and tires, in the Silom business district in Bangkok April 26, 2010.   REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

The “red shirts” poured fuel on it and have run pipes from gas cylinders to the barricade, so that it can be set alight if troops or police advance on them. To enter the area, you walk along the barricade and enter from a controlled access point manned by their own security. We usually have no problem as they recognize the rights of the media to be inside.

In the early hours, there is music playing and people dancing, drinking krating daeng (the potent version of red bull which originated in Thailand). Yesterday, I thought I’d walked into a rave: there was a DJ playing electronic music, a girl dancing seductively on top of a truck and people gathered on the ground below dancing as the sun rose.

People dance in Bangkok April 26, 2010.  REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

After sun rise, the dancing comes to an end and the speakers pump out non-stop political speeches. Next door at Lumphini Park, a morning aerobics class is underway. “Red shirts” wander out of their compound to take a look at middle-aged Bangkokians exercising.

Bangkok April 27, 2010.  REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

The numbers inside the camp thin out at night, but there are still plenty of people. They sleep anywhere they can.

Anti-government 'red shirt' protesters rest on their barricade, built with bamboo poles and tyres, before riot police approached them in the Silom business district in Bangkok April 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

People armed with makeshift weapons like sharpened bamboo poles and slingshots sleep or rest on the barricade; others lie on the ground nearby, on the grass, under canopies which have been set up all through “red zone”, and closer to the main intersection, people sleep right in front of posters advertising Louis Vuitton and Prada outside malls.

Anti-government "red shirt" demonstrators wake up under a sculpture of Buddha decorating the Central World shopping mall plaza in Bangkok April 13, 2010.   REUTERS/Adrees Latif

There is a stage with a 24-hour rotation of people talking and singing. People sit and cheer in front of the stage at all times of day, but the numbers are biggest in the evenings. The area in front of the stage is covered with a black canopy, which the “red shirts” say is to prevent sniper attacks on people in the area.

Anti-government "red shirt" protesters gather in front of a stage in the main shopping district in Bangkok April 15, 2010.  REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

On the edges of the camp, especially near the barricade located at the Silom business district, there are bands of reds armed with sharpened poles, iron bars, slingshots, bags of marbles, golf clubs and all sorts of other makeshift weapons.

Anti-government 'red shirt' protesters stand near rocks on the ground while holding bamboo poles inside their barricade in the Silom business district in Bangkok April 26, 2010.  REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Sometimes, Buddhist monks who have joined the “red shirts” wander through the area, holding sharpened bamboo poles themselves.

Buddhist monks hold sharpened poles inside the an anti-government 'red shirt' protesters' barricade before riot police approached the barricade in the Silom business district in Bangkok April 23, 2010.   REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

The camp is fully supplied and every basic need has been taken care of. There are makeshift kitchens, where people cook free food for protesters.

People receive free food in Bangkok April 27, 2010.  REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

At breakfast, lunch and dinner, people form orderly lines in front of tents dishing out rice, curries and soups.

People line up for free food in Bangkok April 27, 2010.  REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Water is freely available and never too far away. All across “red” Bangkok, street vendors have come in and set up, selling everything from water to coke to cigarettes to food and mobile phones. There are generators that power strip lighting, speakers, TVs and fans. There are vendors who will charge your phone on a charger run off car batteries for a small fee. There are even “red shirt” barbers offering haircuts on the backs of pickup trucks and under tents. If you’re a “red shirt” you probably never have to leave the area at all.

An anti-government "red shirt" protester has his hair cut in the main shopping district in Bangkok April 18, 2010.   REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Is it any wonder the “red shirts” have managed to last so long? The question now is, how much longer can they last? What will happen next as tensions rise and the government and rival groups talk tough?


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Posted by Thailand Problemene i Thailand sett fra andre siden – Side 103 – | Report as abusive

Excellent photos and very informative. About the only missing is where the reds get their supplies, especially their food and water. Suspect that could be their weakpoint if the government really gets tough.

Posted by Terryfrd | Report as abusive

It’s so nice to see people are united as one.

Posted by Monarchobsolete | Report as abusive

Please pray for their strengths not to give up and win the Democracy.

Posted by Monarchobsolete | Report as abusive

Beats working for a living. Where do I sign uo?

Posted by MCos | Report as abusive

this is not a fight for democracy… you have to look closer. they fight for one man. they use violence, threats, bombs. they just go around searching people’s car and beat others who disagree with them up… they are indeed terrorists!

look closer!

Posted by thaicitizen | Report as abusive

This is a never-ending protest that is making the Bangkokians tiresome of the situations. Be it the yellow shirt(pro the current government) or the red-shirts(oppositions) or multi-color shirts(people who really love our country and want peace back to our country). We
just want our country back like before we became a divided nation. And all because of just one person..damn Thaksin. Is there a suicidal bombers out there willing to do us all a favour or let us wait a year out before ousted PM(Pre-historical Monster) succumbed to cancer-ridden prostrate) take his live…If there is a GOD out there, please do us a big favor and take him to hell ad give our country PEACE !!!!!

Long Live our King !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by IamThaiCitizen | Report as abusive

“Beats working for a living. Where do I sign uo?
Posted by MCos | Report as abusive”

And there lies the reason why so many of these red shirts are there in the first place. They would like to believe that they’re there fighting for democracy but the fact remains that they’re being paid to be there and that they just stand around all day getting fed.

Posted by gl9999 | Report as abusive

hmm, this looks more and more like communist organized protest in their early stages… sometimes, in some countries, it takes only a few years before the whole country will be submerged under their dictatorial regime…

Posted by phanthanhgian | Report as abusive

[…] REUTERS – Photo Essay: Life Inside “Red” Bangkok ETN – Tourism Veteran Expresses His Indignation With Events in Thailand CNN – Video Interview: Thai PM Seeks Political Solution to Opposition Standoff BANGKOK PUNDIT/AC – Conspiracy to Overthrow the Monarchy BANGKOK POST – PAD Backs Off TELEGRAPH – Thai King Speaks for First Time Since Protests Began (a clear message for all) NTN – Thaksin Denounces Govt Media Censorship as “Amateurish” (oh so true again) TEAKDOOR – Been Staying Inside the Red Barricades the Past Week (quite a read) TNA – Yellow Shirts Won’t Rally; Call for Martial Law to End Protests BANGKOK POST – Thaksin Denies He’s Dead (sounds like NTN) BANGKOK POST – Not the Same Silom Anymore BLOOMBERG – Thai Premier Calls for Inclusive Talks, Rejects Intimidation […]

Posted by BKK News Feed Archive Q2/10/I | Report as abusive

[…] Serb suspected of genocideRepublicans back down on financial reform Reuters Photographers Blog Life inside “red” BangkokFinding a nugget in the murky watersLuck is a funny thingA shot in the darkFreezing the volcano’s […]

Posted by » Blog Archive » Reuters Photographers Blog : Life inside “red” Bangkok | Report as abusive

This sort of reminds me of when the incident happened in my country in 1998 that eventually make Indonesia as a democratic country.Great picture…

Posted by choirhuda | Report as abusive