Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bangkok Protest Photos

On a recent visit to Thailand, I visited and took photos at an encampment of political protesters at Democracy Monument. (I’m not going to try to explain the politics behind the protests - suffice it to say that the last decade has been politically rocky, to say the least, for Thailand. Bangkok and other parts of the country have been racked by protests several times, with occasional outbreaks of violence leading to protesters and police being injured and killed.)

I decided to visit after speaking to a number of Bangkok residents, all of whom felt that there was little or no danger of any action breaking out. Indeed, the political unrest had been remarkably easy for visitors to avoid, to the extent that some tourists strolling through the site, which is a short walk from the popular Khao San Road area, had no idea what it was. (I visited a week before protest leaders put into action their announced plan to “shut down” Bangkok, which has made it more difficult for tourists to roam the city unaffected by the political turmoil.)

The peaceful encampment resembled a street fair as much as anything: souvenir and food vendors lined the blocked-off street, musical acts appeared as often as political speakers on the stage, and friendly volunteers doled out free food, coffee, and water from several “kitchens.” As with everywhere I’ve visited in Thailand, people were friendly, often pointing me toward the free food and water and enthusiastically posing for photographs.

I should point out that I’m not saying that it is (or was) safe to visit the protests - it’s important that visitors educate themselves about the constantly-changing situation and know when actions and counter-protests are planned. To date, 9 people have died during the demonstrations, which began in late fall; the situation has escalated with a recent daytime grenade attack on protesters.

To be safe, tourists should stay away from protests. If you are in Bangkok or planning to visit soon, this Bangkok blogger’s site may be helpful. I say "may" because I just found it so I'm not that familiar with it, but it seems reliable.

In case you missed the link above, click here for a slideshow I made from the photos I took at the protest site.  Note: I don’t claim to know the politics of anybody pictured. These photos just document a couple of days at and around Democracy Monument. (Music: “Put It On” by Bob Marley and the Wailers)

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Gotta Gettaway by Josh Lewis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.