I arrived in Bangkok five days before the Thais were due to go to the polls in a general election. However, amid growing discontent and dissatisfaction with Yingluck Shinawatra’s government, many people had taken to the streets to protest. Rather than face a ballot sheet comprising the names of Thaksin cronies and shills, they wanted reform first.
The loudest calls were for elections to be delayed until an unelected people’s council had been installed and had swept out the corruption and profligacy. While I’m not entirely convinced by the notion of an unelected people’s council (what can possibly go wrong there?), I do sympathasise with an electorate feeling that they have Hobson’s Choice and that there is no prospect for improvement under the current regime.
Protestors had gathered in force across Bangkok under the slogan ‘Shutdown Bangkok; restart Thailand.’ Major roads and intersections were blocked; public parks were over-taken; and government buildings were barricaded. For the most part, it was a peaceful movement with quite some support and certaily some impact.
The hotel where I was staying was sandwiched between two of the main protest sites: Lumphini Park 500 metres to the left and Rama I Street 300 metres to the right. Right up until I left Bangkok, the protest sites felt far more festival-like a child-friendly than I would anticipate from a political show of discontent. I spent quite some time wandering amongst the protestors, most of whom were happy to be photographed. Many of my photos focused on the food available to the protestors, either free or paid-for. After all, a protest marches on its stomach.