Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Weapons of the weak

All images from today's (May 18) clashes in Din Daeng between red shirts and the military snipers. 

Elements within the red shirt movement have weapons, serious weapons of war.

About five minutes after Seh Dang was hit by a sniper's bullet while walking within the red's barricade, I watched while taking cover from an intense firefight, a black-clad guard assemble an M-16 assault rifle and return fire towards the hi-rise buildings surrounding the red camp.

Unfortunately, the lights had been doused and there was not enough ambient light to take a photograph. Using a flash would have been dangerous.

Yet, what is remarkable, is that this was the first and only time I have ever seen a weapon of war. I did interview Kwanchai Poipana, a red leader in Ubon, who dramatically placed a pistol on the table in response to my question of what he would do if the red's current protest was unsuccessful. I understood the gesture as an act, convincing and one that limited my further questions, but an act with a weapon that is common in Thailand.

Despite over two years interviewing and photographing them, I have only seen one weapon of war. Despite having covered the red's last two months in Bangkok with near-daily coverage and many late nights with them, I have only seen the one.

And while I don't doubt that there are well armed elements associated with the reds, they currently are fighting an extraordinarily lopsided battle.

Sharpened sticks, erratic fireworks, noisy but useless large bamboo-made canons, sling shots, and rocks are trying to fight against snipers hiding behind sandbags and perched on rooftops.

The grim statistics back this up. Between May 13 and 17, the government reported that at least 35 people had been killed, all civilians, and at least 232 wounded. There were no military forces killed.

Were these people terrorists warranting a sniper's bullet, wouldn't the government be parading weapons of war in front of the already subservient local media?

Wouldn't there be serious casualties on the military side?

And wouldn't the masses of local and international media be filming the reds with war weapons if they had them?

While the Center for Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES) and disgraced-former-academic-turned-shameless-government-mouth-piece Panitan have been calling the reds "terrorists', all I have seen and all the  media has really been able to capture is the determination of an angry and disenfranchised group of people willing to trade their lives for very little, if any, way of winning against the military might of the Thai army.

Note: Today was the first time I have seen this 'toy'. It makes an extraordinary boom, but hardly manages to propel an empty water bottle more than a couple feet in the air.

Note: peering around the corner looking for snipers.

 Note: Frontline protesters, with flagrant disregard for personal safety, plan their next move towards the military lines will taking cover behind a burned out garbage truck.

Note: Two men take a wounded protester, apparently shot in the left temple or ear by a sniper, to hospital by motobike.


  1. Excellent expose. I disagreed with you in your opening sentences when you stated "Red Shirts are 'seriously' armed" or words close to that, but you later described what you meant -- likely only a very few are. I have spent countless hours walking around the Red Shirts camp from Sala Daeng up to Petchaburi and from MBK to Ploenchit and was surprised by the numerous bag-examination checkpoints, in which they were looking for: weapons! The Red Shirt guards don't want anyone having that stuff, but the Thai media make it sound like they are all illegally armed. I have been in situations of actual army-protestor battle (i.e. Rangnam and Din Daeng, Bon Kai) and it's always the army firing while the protestors are shouting and throwing anything on the ground they can find.

  2. http://calgary.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100519/CGY_Vandergrift_Thailand_100519/20100519/?hub=CalgaryHome

  3. Young Canadian filmmaker wounded by grenade in Thailand


  4. Hope he is a-okay!

  5. "Chandler Vandergrift, a Calgary documentary-maker in his 20s working in Bangkok, suffered injuries to his brain, legs and arms after a M79 grenade exploded less than 70 metres from him, said freelance photographer Nick Nostitz.

    "He needed brain surgery. Doctors don't really know yet, but they believe he might be handicapped," he said in an interview with Canwest News Service.

    Doctors operated on Vandergrift's brain Wednesday. He's in the Bangkok Christian Hospital. A hospital supervisor told Canwest News Service he is in serious but stable condition and remained in its intensive care unit as of Thursday morning local time."


  6. I wish he would be alright..

  7. guess he has seen two "weapons of war" now

  8. Get well soon webmaster! The newspapers imply that you are going to make it.

  9. Get well soon, thank you so much for bringing us these incredible photos. I hope you make a swift recovery.


  10. here is a picture of The nation's State blogger, Chandler, lying wounded. Picture number 22. Contains graphic content and is very upsetting.


  11. The weapons of war came out by selected few red shirts and/or anarchists seriously at the last phase of government clampdown. This does not imply that this is in any way excusable.

    The blogger ended up being in the receiving end at this final stage. :( Terrible and words are not enough to describe how things ended up this way due to incompetence and stubbornness of powers that be. Swift recovery, I wish there is family and friends to take care of you at the moment, and hope those take the wishes to you.

    As the blog entry when it was written, it still stands that the great majority of casualties have been people with no guns, in the protestor side. Government would have produced evidence if it had any to support their case before 19th.

    AND considering how prevalent gun related crimes are in Thailand, this imho is big thing to take into account. (Let alone the fact that it seems that f*cking grenade launchers and assault rifles are available in this country.)

    Wish you speedy recovery and thanks for all the reporting and blogging! Been RSS subscriber for ages.

  12. And if anyhow could help the guy... I have been waiting for their Land Apart documentary also.

  13. Big fuckin' deal. Bike helmet did you a world of good.

  14. He's starting to recover:


  15. All the best for this brave man!

    Don Kong.

  16. i hope u get well soon man... ill pray for u

  17. And what about the soldiers killed on the 10th of April? What about the grenades I heard falling on the army on Khao San Rd that night? What about the soldier that got shot in front of me? Fireworks too? I was there and I saw, and I have photos.

    Yes for sure, most reds are unarmed, but they had a faction fighting with them against the Govt. And excuse me: A Molotov exploding on soldiers is also considered a weapon, as well as home made bombs/grenades. Stop the hypocrisy!

  18. Anonymous, you could have at least entered your name. It's intriguing how the government and it's many followers now accuse the Reds of having a 'huge cache' of weapons, yet we never see them in their hands being used in the many heats of battle; it's intriguing that we hear about all these attacks on soldiers' endangered lives yet the statistics show relatively little. If you have photos of grenades falling on soldiers, put them up! Blogspot offers free hosting, and it's very simple.

  19. how is you my friend? I hope to see you here posting photos. Alain

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