02 June 2010

My Experiences with Red Shirts

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2 June 2010: I think that I am a fairly good judge of individual character. Although my experiences are limited, here are some of my impressions of Red Shirt people I have met.
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On 9 April, the day before the first big exchange of gunfire between the Reds and the Army at the Phan Fah area, I walked through the Red-occupied area at Ratchaprasong intersection, the prime shopping area of Bangkok. The Reds had been starting to occupy this area for a week, and after the violence of 10 April they would move their main rally area here from Phan Fah because it was more easily defendable and would disrupt Bangkok life like few other spots. The peaceful Reds, the photogenic families shown on TV, would soon be transferred to Ratchaprasong for the last stand.
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I had finished important business at the US Embassy not too far away, and I took a taxi to try to get to Siam Square on the other side of Ratchaprasong. But the Red Guards had blocked all entrances to Ratchaprasong except for their own vehicles. Finally, I just paid the taxi driver and got out to walk through Ratchaprasong to get to Siam Square.
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As I got out of the taxi I noticed two things. The first was the smell. Urine and garbage smells were far stronger than one usually smells in downtown Bangkok. The second impression was how extremely tough-looking the people were there. Everyone was dressed in red except me. I got mean glares from very thuggish-looking people. Even the women looked mean – not at all like the ones filmed for TV audiences in front of the rally stage.
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The whole atmosphere reminded me of a seedy rock festival that was taken over by one of the more thuggish biker gangs. I didn’t see a kind face in the whole of the few blocks I had to walk through, and I was glad it wasn’t nighttime. I remember thinking that these characters could easily take on the Thai Army.
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My last up-close encounter with a Red Shirt was on 19 May and was much different. This was the day the Army moved in to disperse the rally at Lumpini Park and Ratchaprasong, but this was in our neighborhood far from the action. I was heading to the local store to stock up on batteries, ice, tea and lots of instant noodles, because no one knew how the day would end.
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I rounded the corner and saw a meek little guy in a red shirt and in a pathetic situation. He looked entirely out of place in the city. I would guess that he was a rural guy. He looked very scared, as if he believed the exaggerated Red stories about troops shooting indiscriminately at protestors.
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I saw him on the narrow sidewalk leading to the store. He was crouched down and counting his money from a plastic bag, and I could see that he didn’t have much. That small change and his clothing were the only things he had. I remember thinking that he was probably fleeing from rumors of the Army action downtown and trying to get through the city and go home to the north.
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As I returned from the store, my hands were full with huge bags. I came across this same little Red guy on the narrow sidewalk as he was trying to urinate against the wall, at noon on a crowded street. He looked desperate and humiliated, as women and kids were passing by. I felt so sorry for him and tried to keep from looking his way during his embarrassing plight.
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The crowd moved me along before I could really think about it, but later I wished that I could help him somehow. I had no money on me because I’d spent all in my pocket at the store. I would have liked to have given him some money and food that he didn’t have to cook, but that wasn’t possible.
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I hope he finally made it home okay. I am still haunted by this brief encounter, because I missed an opportunity to help the unfortunate guy.
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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for shedding some light on a very difficult political situation. I just pray that there is some peaceful resolution somewhere down the road...

    Haha, yeah... high school kids are not the best. But the job at CVS is keeping me busy right now, so maybe I won't have to sub at all. -fingers crossed-

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