I spent 7 years of my life in Southeast Asia, traveling, studying and working. The Thai New Year’s Day 2009 is undoubtedly the most memorable day of all those I spent in Asia. That day, I found myself taking part in a “shooting” against the Thai army.
At the time, I was studying in Thailand at an international university in Bangkok. The country was experiencing political turmoil in recent years, which, by simplifying things a little, pitted two camps: the yellow-shirts (in power at that time) and the red-shirts. In April 2009, the red-shirts had begun to protest in the streets of Bangkok and had occupied downtown for weeks.
One evening, on my way home, taxi drivers (people usually from northeast Thailand – and therefore red-shirts) had blocked the intersection near my place. They had built a barricade with their cars, tires and everything else they could find. Curious, I asked them what they were doing. They replied that they were waiting for the army! That night, I went to bed a bit nervous.
The next morning, I turned on the news as soon as I got out of bed. The army and protestors were fighting. The intersection on my street had been cleared up during the night.
« In April 2009, the red-shirts had begun to protest in the streets of Bangkok and had occupied downtown for weeks. »
« The afternoon was uneventful. Everything was closed. You couldn’t buy water, food or anything. »
Instead of the red-shirts barricades, there was now a row of motionless soldiers, looking towards the protestors who were a little farther. There was a lot of tension in the air, but nothing was happening.
I could not get out of my house. The army was now asking people to stay inside. So I stayed in my apartment, while the army continued its offensive against the protestors. Several shots were fired.
The afternoon was uneventful. Everything was closed. You couldn’t buy water, food or anything. Towards the end of the afternoon, things became more calm and I finally got out of my house.
On that day, we celebrated the Thai New Year. April being the hottest month of the year, the Thais celebrate this holiday with a big water fight, armed with buckets and water guns. Thus, while there were confrontations between the army and the red-shirts in one part of the city, another part was celebrating with a gigantic water battle!
Since I wanted to be part of it, I walked to a place where I could take a cab and join some friends to celebrate with them in the other part of the city. In the early morning, I took another cab to go home. However, the cab could not bring me back to my door. The army still occupied a large part of the roads surrounding my apartment, so I had to walk.
I headed to my apartment, crossing hundreds of Thai soldiers. I was soaked and armed with a huge water gun! Several soldiers burst out laughing. One of them got up and began to water me with his bottle of water. I replied with my rifle and we exchanged a few shots, to the delight of the soldiers surrounding us.
So, my dear friends, this is how I ended up in a shootout with the Thai army!
« I headed to my apartment, crossing hundreds of Thai soldiers. I was soaked and armed with a huge water gun! »