Today was the 37th day of the “Bangkok Shutdown”.
Anti-Government protesters marched to protect key sites early this morning. Police attempted to clear some of those sites, with limited success. In various bloody clashes, 64 people were injured, many critically. Four people were killed. Figures do not reflect how many of the dead and injured were police and how many were protesters. Not that it matters. Both sides saw casualties.
It’s been a long day so for speed, these images are JPEGs straight out of the two cameras I was using today and are largely unprocessed. I shot RAW and JPEG files on each camera, with a custom, high-contrast, black & white Picture Style on both a Canon EOS 5D MKIII with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and a Fujifilm X-Pro 1 with 18mm f/2 lens. That’s the science bit for the geek fiends.
Protesters gathered early this morning at the main Pathumwan site.
They marched to their site outside the UN building and the nearby Ministry of Education.
A soldier takes video of the marching protesters on his phone
Protesters seen through the gap in an overpass road on the way to the Ministry of Education building.
Some random photojournalist (Jack Kurtz) at work
Many protesters walked, others hitched a ride in the back of vehicles
The front line of the protest march
A human cordon of protest guards surrounds protest leader Suthep at all times.
Protest leader Suthep arrives at the protest site outside the UN building.
Suthep outside the UN building.
Suthep rests after the walk from Pathumwan
Protest guards near Suthep keep a watchful eye.
Protesters take up positions on the sandbag barricades.
Protesters gathered behind barricades on Phitsanulok Road. Police lines were formed about 200 yards away.
A protester kisses a religious amulet for good luck.
A protester kitted out and optimistic.
Meanwhile, police waited in formation at the other end of the street.
Similarly optimistic, a policeman gives a thumbs-up.
A lone protester walked into No-Man’s Land and faced the police lines.
She carried a leaflet of Buddhist prayers.
She walked up to the police at one point. They treated her with respect and offered her bottled water.
Her name is Saibua, which translates as “Lotus stem”.
Saibua also carried a banner bearing a likeness of King Bhumibol. She stood alone for about 90 minutes.
Many of the protesters at the rally were women, wearing their protest paraphernalia.
Despite the heart sign, the day was not destined to end well.
Without proper gas masks, some protesters, somewhat unwisely, pulled polythene bags over their heads for protection.
At the other front line, police prepared for possible conflict.
At nearby Pan Fah Bridge, protesters and police had begun to clash, gunshots had people running from the barricades.
Protesters sought cover where they could find it.
One protester revealed what appeared to be a wound from a rubber bullet.
Unable to photograph with ease, Jack Kurtz and I took a detour down a nearby alley, in the hope of circling around behind the police lines. In a surreal encounter that’s not untypical, we met a group of school children on their way home from school. In one street people were trying very hard to kill each other, on the next street… giggling school kids.
Meanwhile, a gun fight had broken out at the Democracy Monument site. Many were injured, some fatally. Boards were used to carry the injured towards medical attention.
The boards showed bloody signs of the damage done.
After the police had withdrawn, a protester showed bullet casings and a rubber bullet, allegedly retrieved from the scene.
Protesters overturned vehicles left at the scene and removed the contents.
Several vehicles were rolled onto their sides or even onto their roofs.
Flag waving is a common sight at anti-government protests.
One protester sprayed the contents of a fire extinguisher into the engines and over any leaking liquid.
This is not the famous “Captain Underpants” that I photographed way back on December 1st, but another underdressed protester who was also holding bullet casings.
Despite the fact that at nearby Democracy Monument, thousands of protesters and dozens of reporters were taking photographs, the protesters at this junction were not keen for this damaged vehicle to be photographed. So this is the photograph.
After the fighting, protest leader Suthep met with officials, who showed him a bag containing bullet casings and what looked like spent shotgun cartridges.
Opinions on who fired at who first and which party is responsible for the deaths and injuries are deeply divided and the polarised views have been forced even further apart today. Clearly, both sides sustained casualties and both must bear some responsibility – although it’s rare that you’ll hear that opinion expressed. Neutrality is something of a luxury in Bangkok these days but one that I shall be holding on to. These are the things I saw today.