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Day 3 Street War Bangkok 17th May 2010 Bangkok Rama IV barricades

On Monday 17th May I returned to film and interview people who’d gathered in and along Rama IV Road and the Expressway area. By the third day of fighting, it was less frightening being on the street. It is strange how we adapt to what is a dangerous, uncertain environment. The first thing people learn is to distinguish the sound of firecrackers and from the sound of bullets coming from shotguns, M16s, M79s and AK47s weapons. These weapons as well as the firecrackers were used at some stage in during the street conflict. I didn’t see any war weapons on the 17th May. That doesn’t mean they Red side wasn’t armed. It means I personally didn’t see them.

No man’s land

Bankgok Rama IV Road Monday 17 May 2010


There was a lot of firecrackers throwing by members of the crowd. Each time the firecracker went off in a forward position. I didn’t see any firecrackers thrown near the crowded areas. The Red Shirts at the most forward barricades were the main people throwing them.


Firecrackers are a quite effective method to keep the attention and sympathy of the crowd. It gives a communal feeling of being ‘under fire’. With only the occasional round from a gun—and those could have been rubber bullets or live rounds—it would have easy for the crowd to become bored. Firecrackers kept the crowd focused. It also kept down idle conversation. Firecrackers charge up the emotions and keep them running high. The crowd under ‘fire’ bonds into a group experiencing a common threat. When on the front line of a conflict, the temptation is to see those around you as in the same vulnerable situation. For anyone organizing a mass political movement firecrackers must be one of their best devices. They are cheap. They are scary (as many people think that a bomb has gone off). And they are provocative acts to unsettle the soldiers who aren’t quite certain if it was a bomb or firecracker.

View from the barricades looking out on no man’s land

Bankgok Rama IV Road Monday 17 May 2010


After a while in the street, most of the crowd learnt to distinguish between lethal ordnance and firecrackers. They joke with each other, ‘Just a firecracker. Not to worry.’ It is good training for people to practice what needs to be done when under fire. That is one important lesson: seek a secure position and stay there. What is a secure position differs. Here’s a guy who found a nice chair and relax.

Young Thai man drinking bottled water

Bankgok Rama IV Road Monday 17 May 2010


The no man’s land on Rama IV running from the Expressway to Ngnam Duphli was empty. I’d walked that stretch easily on 16th May. On Monday, the following day, it become far more dangerous to venture out and the crowds sheltered in clumps under the expressway overpass.


As on previous days, old Tires were gathered, trucked to the front and used to make or reinforce barricades. The Red Shirts had pickup trucks loading and unloading the tires.

Tyres barricade Expressway Entrance

Bankgok Rama IV Road Monday 17 May 2010


On the 17th May a number of young people were also in the crowd. Knowing what it takes to drag kids from a TV or computer screen, the Rama IV drama must have had considerable pull for them.

Bangkok Youth at the barricades

Bankgok Rama IV Road Monday 17 May 2010


The memories of these events in May will live on the memory of those who are in these photographs. For the youths in the crowd, the fighting, bloodshed, gunfire will be formative in their development. No one has been untouched by the events. Raw, open, swollen like a sore, the wounds inflicted on those involved will take time to heal.

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