My new army tent felt like a briefcase as I walked firmly through the bus terminal, trying to stay calm and alert of my
surroundings. The security guard laughed when he saw my bulging backpack and didn’t even bother to have me show what was in it. “Where you go?” Where would someone be going in the middle of Bangkok with a tent, at the exit for Lumphini Park, where all of the anti-Shinawarta government protesters had relocated to the night before?
His carelessness to check my loot for weapons made my backpack sit uneasy on my stomach. Twenty three dead, hundreds injured echoed in my nervous thoughts – a newspaper headline from the day before. All other stages around the capital were removed this weekend and now everyone has relocated to one space out of decreasing supporters and safety concerns. I wondered if an attack from the opposing side would be easier now. To add to my uncertainty, I had just ran out of travel insurance. I hoped I wouldn’t be needing it…
The Thai Army surrounded the large gates to the park and let me enter almost too easily. No wonder why there are so bombings. Anyone can walk in here, but there were only a handful of tourists. I walked around tire and wall blockades. It reminded me of a video game I had seen my friends play. Where do I set up camp? Clusters of tent communities were sectioned off by rope. People had clearly been doing this for a while (since November to be exact) and they were not used to seeing a farang that was serious (or dumb) enough to join the sleepover.
A group of middle-aged people waved over to me and began setting my tent up. After a few minutes of listening (but not understanding) their conversation, I started noticing the different zones. Some had more yellow and others more red decorations. The two colors discern each side of the government. What if I’m in the wrong area? I began to worry as I covered my yellow bracelet and looked to my new crew to see what they were adorning.
“I’m worried about your safety, there were gun shots last night”
I recognized her from a group of a few dozen people that drove by earlier. They were all wearing bulletproof vests – a scare tactic to let the nearby government owned shops that they meant business, she told me. It worked for me.
Besides being terrified for my safety, the demonstration was pretty typical. Free food and drinks for protestors, music and excited speeches blaring from speakers, and monitors set up showing the main stage.
As it grew dark and the noises of protesters got louder, I decided it wasn’t safe enough to stay. If locals are telling me I’m not safe, and I’m the only non-Thai in the whole park, I probably shouldn’t be there. So I packed up my little army tent, tucked away my whistle and got the hell out of there.