Bangkok’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.
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.