The People Have Revolted in Thailand
Over the past month, an estimated 500,000 anti-government protesters have peacefully gathered in Bangkok.
They have marched, rallied, closed down city streets and taken over government buildings.
What do the protesters want?
Nothing less than the resignation of Thailand’s elected Prime Minister: Ms Yingluck Shinawatra.
Most recently, Shinawatra has dissolved Thailand’s Parliament, stating “I don’t want our country and the Thai people to suffer from more losses.”
However, this is unlikely to appease protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who has demanded power be transferred to an unelected “people’s council.” ¹
Violence just before I arrived
In the days before I arrived in Bangkok, grenade launchers were fired, tear gas and rocks were thrown, hundreds of people were injured and five were killed.
However, in a surprise move, the army put down their riot gear and let the protesters occupy the Government House.
The truce was a calculated decision by Shinawatra; in an effort to curtail the escalating violence before King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 86th birthday.
A truce for King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Birthday
The truce worked, temporarily, as the majority of protesters returned home to be with their families and celebrate the King’s birthday.
The rest stayed behind to help clean the streets in an act of service to honor His Majesty.
This was when I arrived in Bangkok; on the day before the King’s birthday.
Experiencing both sides of the revolution
In 2009, I arrived in Bangkok during the infamous Red Shirt protests.
Without trying, my wife and I found ourselves in the middle of it all and even spent a day behind the scenes in the Red Shirt encampment.
It was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.
read more at: Molotov Cocktails, Burning Buses & the Red Shirts
Four years later, fate brought me to Bangkok during the Yellow Shirt protests.
I knew I wanted to see them first-hand; but didn’t know where to start.
Then, I met Natee: a local Thai photographer who had been to the protests and was excited to go back with me by his side.
As I climbed onto the back of his Vespa and held on for dear life, my mind was racing at the thought of what awaited.
The happiest protest ever
As I watched the anti-government protesters scrubbing down the streets, I was amazed at the smiles and jocular nature of the scene.
Just 48 hours earlier, these same people had reached a boiling point and were ready to take up arms.
Yet, here they were; laughing and cleaning while the man with the hose secretly delighted in getting everyone’s feet wet.
Stockpiling bottled water is not a sign of giving up
In addition to cleaning up the streets, protesters were busy moving thousands of water bottles from trucks to the front of the Democracy Monument.
With that much water, the protests can go on indefinitely.
One month earlier in Bangkok…
Although I was not in Bangkok, Thailand, for the start of the anti-government protests, my friend Natee was.
An amazing photographer, Natee was kind enough to allow me to use these four photographs of Democracy Monument on November 5, 2013.
Democracy for sale
I don’t know why the entrepreneurial spirit continues to amaze me; but it does.
All around the protesters’ encampment at the Central Government Complex in Bangkok, vendors had set up stalls selling pro-Thailand paraphernalia.
With items ranging from tee shirts to wristbands, hats, balloons and pins, it was fascinating to see such a display of capitalism.