|Video Courtesy of NTDTV |
BANGKOK—During the first month of the red shirt anti-government protests in Bangkok, many of the small mini-buses ferrying commuters through the city’s inner roads flew red flags from radio aerials in a show of support for the anti-government demonstrations.
As the protests continued unabated, revealing a more violent characteristic, the red flags became fewer and after a group of protesters rampaged through a hospital they were nowhere to be seen.
“Some of the drivers who were supportive began to think the red shirts had gone too far,” said Mr. Wahsht Junbut, a 39-year-old, mini-bus driver.
In the aftershocks of the worst political violence in Thailand’s modern history, which has left over 80 people (mostly civilians) dead, Wahsht said, “At this moment it will be difficult for the Thai people to be one, it will take time to heal.”
After days of street fighting between the Thai military and the red shirts, the army on Wednesday May 19 stormed the protesters’ fortified encampment that was established in one of Bangkok’s high-end retail areas. While their leaders surrendered early that afternoon, rioting red shirts set fire to over 30 buildings in the city.
As he drove towards one of the city areas officially designated a disaster zone, taxi driver Kiattisak Csanongwa said he was saddened that his own countrymen would burn down so many buildings.
“People shouldn’t do this just because others have different opinions and thoughts,” said Kiattisak who drives a Bangkok taxi to support his family in north-eastern Thailand, the region where many of the red shirt protesters originate from.
“A lot of things need resolving, the people who have been protesting have grievances and the government needs to address theses issues for why they feel wronged,” he said.
“Before people can live well together, talking needs to begin and a reconciliation process needs to take place and the government must try and sort this mess out,” he said.
“Firing real bullets”
Living in a small street off Rama IV Road, studio photographer Chuart Klongpubsuk was holed-up in his house for days with protesters setting up a tire barricade at the end of his street opposite an eight story government building.
“People in this street are scared they will come back,” said Chuart. “Gangs of protesters drove around on motorbikes with clubs and knives,” he said. “They made threats they would burn the area down.”
“Four men threw two bombs into the [government] building and when the fire trucks came they threatened them with guns,” he said.
“I don’t mind people protesting, they have their views and I have mine, but now they are violent and destroy things, that is not right.”
The government building was completely gutted by the fire.