Sunday, 16 May 2010

a moment of relief- April 12th

I sit at the end of Khao San, on a small step outside a silver shop. On my right the street is broken into pieces, left there since the day before carelessly. Red shirts and curious everywhere taking pictures of what happened in this small soi, or at least of the traces left, archived, collected, marked into walls, on streets, inside people’s memories. In front of Burger King at least two people were killed, or at least things have been arranged to transform two blood stains into the last residence of these souls. They were shot at the head, people say, their brain left on the street pavement. A guy is going around circling with a pen every bullet hole he can find on the walls. People with wet eyes stare at the stain of blood with have been delimited by yellow metal barriers and adorned with two dirty red shirts, both with Thaksin’s face on, some flower and food donation- rotten in the unbearable heat of the day, and some coins, donation to the spirits. Around on the pavement pieces of stones, dirt, food, and the stone basements of the lights in Ratchdamnoen, that have been broken to make stonse to throw to the army. A big board across the street with the pictures of the dead bodies reproduced and photographed by a dozen of cameras, self phones, camcorders that will bring them into the private lives of thousands, into their living rooms. Some police officers with bullet proof vest walks around, as people in the crowd look in the rubbish on the side of the road for bullets, memorabilia of this moment. 5 meters away, right behind a row of metal barriers delimiting the area is Khao San, a crowd of young tourist is playing with water. Songkran today is celebrated only here in Bangkok.

Thousands of wet under-dresses young white kids dance into the ear bursting techno music, throwing water at each other. Their clothes adhere to their young bodies as they completely ignore what is going on few meters away. An orgy of adolescent lack of interest, orientalistic indifference, and massive disrespect. Some Thais stop for a second, looking at this charade from behind the barriers, wet tanned white kids having their battle with buckets and water rifle. 5 meters. I feel disgusted. I know I should know better and find some social dimension to this, something clever to say but I just can’t, I don’t want to, this is simply disgusting and a complete obliviation of everything going on. The Saturday tourists ran away, who arrived this week may be kilometers or years away from what is going on 5 meters away.

As I sit thinking about the disgust and sense of shame I feel, a roar from the crowd expand in the crowded streets, people start running and shouting in the direction of democracy monument, I stand up passing the silent story tellers who were narrating the stories of the fight and I ask a woman what is going on she just says “dissolution” as she run as well. I leave her behind enter Ratchadamnoen and find a sea of red cheering, clapping, shouting, hugging each other. Everybody is going toward the monument. “The democrat party is dissolved” a man shouts. From every street red shirt emerge. The atmosphere is joyful, that kind of moments when you can feel the relief of thousands of people, it gives the goo spam. I walk again, electrified by the common feeling. People are waving red flags, the loud speakers are chanting “democracy is in our hands” I turn back and see people clapping and waving flags in the red sunset. Their profiles carved into Ratchadamnoen with a low sun at the end of the street that greets the moment. I arrive at democracy monument, cheering everywhere. The speakers shout” One year ago was their Songkran, this year we can celebrate our Songkran, and it will be a Red Songkran”. I arrive at the Monument a young man runs on my side, his arms to the sky, happy. Same others around him do the same. Then there is a moment, just a very brief moment of pause. The young man stands, watching Democracy monument and starts crying. An older man on his side, blocked with his arms up, cries as well, silently. Around people running. I see the tension on these man faces, the tension of many sleepless nights, the tension of the Saturday’s events, portrayed over and over again in the pictures of the dead and injured posted everywhere, breaking. Red sleepless eyes, bursting into tears. The loud speakers say is not over, urge people not to leave. The old man sits down on a chair, nervously looks for his cigarettes, find the packet and plays with it in his hands, eyes staring at the monument wrapped in red cloth saying “give back the power to the people” and besides it the coffins of the dead, with their pictures on top. I take some pictures of him and the younger man who is still frozen there, standing, in tears. It is a very powerful moment, I don’t know yet was really has happened but seen from here it looks like victory, or at least the need to believe is it. I take some steps, on old man walks to me and tells me one of the dead is a “nong” and now they have died for something, for “chart”, the nation. Another man tells me this is not just for Thailand, but for every person in the world, the demonstration that people have the power, or can claim it. I go back, the older man is still with his packet in the hands. I ask him for a lighter, he passes it to me. I offer to light his cigarette, he says not now and offer me a sit on his side. I sit there, for a while in silence. He is on my side, the younger man on the other. He is not crying anymore, he smiles. That smile that you take after a long journey, when you breathe finally. The older man tells me he hasn’t slept in three days, he has come to Bangkok exactly 30 days ago for the protest, abandoned his job. I tell him he will probably sleep well tonight, he laugh. I tell him tonight you will have a party. Not yet he replies and go back to torture his pack of cigarettes. The sensation is overwhelming. People are celebrating. At least for tonight this is going to be the mood. I walk away thanking them, on my left are parked five tanks of the Thai army. Their interior has been dissembled, as every weapon that they carried, the caterpillars taken apart and left on the street. Anything that could be taken away it was, small memories of this historic moment. People are jumping on them, other to find a privileged spot from which to look and photograph the crowd or to get photographed. Many kids are standing on top as their parents and grandparents take pictures. A man is inside the tank I now stand on, searching for small part to take away. I get pictures, I can’t stop taking them in this moment, in front of democracy monument standing on a military tanks covered in messages of democracy, people power, and hate against the Thai military. In the tank besides me a crowd is waving red flags, two tanks behind a group of tourist are being photographed by a small crowd as they stand on top, showing their water guns with which they partied in khao San until a moment ago. Sunset makes the atmosphere the more mythical. A motortaxi guy comes up from the front hole of the tank and sits there, his head out, staring at democracy monument. I don’t want to ask questions, I want to leave everyone to her/his own personal moment. An old man asks me to take pictures of him. “I have never seen one of those before” he tells me, mildly embarrassed. You feel on top of the world from here. I get down and take other pictures, I discover that the Election Committee voted for proceeding in the direction of a trial for the dissolution of the democrat party which means it will still have to go to constitutional court and it won’t be fast, yet people are celebrating as if they won the whole pie. Some sort of relief was needed in these tense days. The smell of barbecue fill the air as small stall, previously inactive is covered in smoke, as good street vendors know soon people will want to eat and a battery of chickens hit the grill.

I walk down the street, same images people taking pictures with the tanks, “fuck thai army” is written on one of them. Down the road two military jeeps are crashed on the street, blocking the entrance, few meters away another one is revolted on a side, from there on the normal life of Bangkok, as nothing happened. I get back on Ratchadamnoen, the same atmosphere of festivity, people clapping, cheering, and hugging. Many people just sit, alone, simmering the moment. Some people leave, the protest slowly gets in movement, after the breaking moment, back in its usual mobility. Motortaxis zip everywhere diffusing people in the city and the good news.

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