Pinned Down in Bangkok!
Dateline: April 28, 2010
Location: Vibhavadi Rangsit Road
Today I got an Avis rental car at the Don Mueang airport in Bangkok. It is the silver Honda Civic shown in the photo here and yes that is me driving. I started heading north on the freeway in front of the airport. I planned to spend the night in Ayutthaya. The traffic was very heavy and slow. I know it is quite normal for Bangkok. Little did I know that there was more to come in Amazing Thailand. Suddenly the traffic came to a complete stop for a very long time. I see people getting out of their cars. In front of me there is an older American looking gentleman getting out of his red Toyota Yaris. I roll down my window and chat with him. He is from Santa Cruz, CA. He lives in Thailand about 2 km ahead. He says he is “God damned happy to find someone here that speaks English”. We talk for a while and then he walks back ahead of my car. That is the last time I saw him.
Next there were motorcycles coming from behind with the red-shirt demonstrators. They are all around my car, to the front, to the rear and on both sides of me. I cannot move my car. I can only watch. Suddenly, the red-shirts get very scared and irritated. Somehow they are able to get off the freeway to the left. Shortly thereafter the Thai army and police are coming towards me from ahead of me. They are fully outfitted with riot gear, helmets, bulletproof soft armor and shields. They are firing some kind of weapons at the protestors. It reminded me of the gun I had as a kid, a pop gun but somewhat louder. I believe they are firing rubber bullets. Some of the soldiers are carrying M16s. I can hear the sounds of automatic weapons in front of me. The red-shirts retreat by running back and turning their motorcycles to go in the opposite flow of traffic.
Next the riot police take a position just 2 feet in front of my car. They are facing me on their knees taking cover. They are blocking the entire road with their shields. Their weapons are pointed as if to shoot someone behind me. Every few seconds a round goes off. Their leader is lying on the hood of my car taking cover from the red-shirts. He is wearing a helmet and talking on a walkie-talkie. He looks at me, sees that I am a farang and gives me a big smile. The red-shirts are armed with slingshots and pointed sticks. The red shirts are antagonizing the police by firing rocks at them with the slingshots. There must be more than 100 members of the press to the right of my car. They are rapidly snapping photos of the police and of me. Whenever I look in their direction the cameras start firing away at me and at the police.
This all does not seem real. I feel like I am watching a Rambo movie.
The police go past my car. I can hear and see the police firing weapons from the pedestrian overpass behind me. I wait in the car my head kept low for a long time. Suddenly the police seem to be retreating from the red-shirts. Are they outmanned? Certainly they are not outgunned. They order everyone out of their cars and off the freeway. I do not really know what they are saying but I can tell they want me to go and they want me to go now! I grab my GPS and eyeglasses and lock the car. I flee to the right over two barriers and into the opposing traffic. Everyone is running in panic mode from the mess. I get to the far right side of the road. The traffic in both directions has come to a stop. The sound of explosions and automatic weapons fire is damn close. I take cover under a truck that has pulled off to the side of the road by crawling on my stomach to get underneath it. All the Thais are doing the same. I pull a Thai woman under the truck next to me. She is very scared, almost to the point of crying. People are all around me are hiding under the cars and taking cover. The sounds of automatic weapons and explosions are deafening.
I begin to hear thunder and see the lightning. It starts to get dark as the dark clouds obscure the sun. Heavy rain starts to fall. My clothes suck up the moisture as the wind drives the rain under the truck. My clothes and shoes are saturated.
I remain under that truck for about one hour until the noise stops and I can see the Thais coming out from under the cars. I have no raincoat and no umbrella. Many other people are in the same condition as me, dirty and wet from head to toe. I do not think much about the car or my luggage in it. If nothing else I can ditch it all and walk out of this hell hole.
I start to walk quickly back to my car hoping it is in one piece. I do not realize it but I have run more than one quarter mile from the car. The rain is pouring down on me. I just want to get in the car out of the rain. All I can remember is the red Toyota Yaris. I am so dazed and confused I do not even remember the color of my car. Not many people around me. Everyone is still too afraid. It is like a ghost town there on the freeway. The cars are stopped in time. I see my car. I hope it is ok. I just want to get out of the rain.
….TO BE CONTINUED….