Sunday, 19 September 2010

September 19th- Back in Ratchaprasong

(Sorry no time to put pictures on now, i have to choose carefully)

We exit home around 5 into a very quiet traffic around Sathorn, took the skytrain and get off at Siam. As the train bent over Ratchaprasong intersection people gathered on the right side of the car to look down to a red river of people taking over the Ratchaprasong area from Erawan Shrine to Pratunam and from Wat Pratum to Chidlom.

Most of the sky-train commuters got off the train and walked into Siam Paragon, normally overflowing with people and Sunday events. We walked back in the direction of Ratchaprasong, meeting flock of people dressed in red leaving the area. As we walked over the skywalk a feeling of déjà vu fills the air. People dress in red everywhere, street-vendors calmly occupying big chunks of the pathways with tables and chairs and a thick smell of fermented fish. Some people free red balloons with white question marks on them inside Wat Pratum as other curious walk around the temple, revisiting the place of the tragedy.

We walk down into the crowd and we overhear all around us people recounting the story of the dead, of the snipers on the skytrain tracks, and the fear of the last days of the May protest. Along the way arriving to the intersection chalks outlines of dead bodies have been traced on the pathways, syncopating the walk to Ratchaprasong and laying silent on the concrete in front of the growing wall of design-inspired state propaganda. Messages of hope, tranquility, harmony, and security in English who seems to over-simplify the political conflict more than ease it. Among these messages an unsettling blue board repeats 6 times, in black capital letters:


In front of the poster two black chalk outlines seem to contradict the reassuring propaganda. Around the air is filled with Red shirt music, especially the hit รักคนเสื้อแดง. People gather around the few pick-ups with loudspeakers, specifically prohibited by Suthep, and dance as the sun goes down over the massive crowd. Over them the skytrain runs unimpressed, with its regular and mathematic frequency. Underneath the rail two red piece of cloth cover the sides of the skywalk. In white, again in English, written “Who is killer? Where is justice?” These questions, and tentative answers, fill the intersection and people’s conversations.

We start talking to people here in there, most of them are from Bangkok and came out to show their support for the red and the fact that the red shirts are not gone and could easily take over this space anytime they want. Many people wear shirts with written “Red never die”. Even if at first gaze the atmosphere seem the same of the early days of red shirts in Ratchaprasong, the conversation run differently. Many people tell me proudly, staring at me “we have no leader; these are people that came autonomously, following their heart.” What is seen by many of the protesters as a new more participative phase is also peppered by new forms of search for responsibility and justice. Few people talk about Aphisit or government dissolution anymore, but questions about the real instigator and responsible for the May 19th massacre bypass the government to rest on higher authorities and more long-standing presences. People talk about entire institutional structures that keep people’s head down and get involved into politics to the point of celebrating “war victory rituals” after May 19th massacre.

Stories of the international relations to Saudi Arabia and the ‘blue diamond” fill people’s mouth, as an unspoken and unspeakable taboo finally being uttered. An upper-class young Thai man walks around with his eyes wide opened. “ I have waited for this many years” he tells me as he walks through the crowd, openly talking about subjects he normally only dares with his closest friends. It is surprising to hear some of these conversations in a public arena, filled with resentment and personalized attacks. Even more surprising is to see them written, condensed even just for a night on pieces of paper or larger state propaganda boards that surround Central World and will be promptly trashed or be taken away as soon as the crowd leaves the area around 8 pm.

Around the ratchaprasong sign a thick web of red threads is condensed and small pieces of paper are attached by the protesters to the threads, expressing opinions about the government and other state institutions. On the pavement, where the stage used to be in May, two big red candles light up two small cartoon boxes messages. “Take your happiness back, We need Justice”. Behind this on a wall is written. “Not Harmonize”. Not far away a small kid sits alone in front of myriads of small red candles, playing with the fire.

In the mean while the crowd is slowly decreasing as people start leaving and the traffic slowly by slowly moves back into the intersection. Buses are the first to arrive, tearing away, as they pass, the spider net of red yarns that the protesters have build from the skywalk to the whole intersection, resembling a mixture between the plastic cover present there during the last days of May protest and the Buddhist sai sin (สายสิญจน์ ). After them the motorcycle taxis arrive, moving from the outskirt of the protest to the core, trying to pick up the last passengers as other protesters help clean up the area, picking up trash, and cutting the red ropes from the intersection signs and the light poles. Finally is the turn of cars and in less than twenty minute Ratchaprasong is back to the usual space of traffic flow. Only reminder the huge wall around Central World filled with people opinions, written over the state “together we can” campaign, which is often played on by the messages that ridicule it of re-signify the content of the propaganda. Few hours later the boards will be removed to leave to the first morning sun just a wall of grey corrugated iron.