By Athit Perawongmetha
Thai anti-government protests have been going on for some three months and during weeks of political unrest my attention has been focused on the action of the daily news.
The protesters’ takeover of major intersections in the city harks back to a tumultuous April and May of 2010, when supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra took to the streets. I now find myself in the same location near Bangkok’s central Lumphini Park where violent street battles between protesters and government security forces took place.
Today’s protesters are opponents, rather than supporters, of Thaksin and they are against his sister, the current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. They mostly hail from the south of Thailand and from Bangkok, whereas Thaksin and Yingluck’s supporters are mostly poor, rural voters from the north and northeast. But despite that, the scene does not look dissimilar to 2010: tents and barricades abound, and I am shooting pictures in the same spot.
During these protests, I have increasingly begun to ask myself whether I am missing something with this new set of demonstrators. Who really are these people who support the protest? Where do they live? What do they believe in? And why have they come to Bangkok to camp out in the extreme heat under the city’s flyovers and near its imposing skyscrapers?
With all these questions swimming in my head, my boss gave me the green light to cover the lives of the demonstrators. I was one hundred percent ready and started preparing to spend several nights with them.