Fleeing Snipers and Soldiers in Bangkok

A Buddhist monk in the Reds camp

The monk surveyed the tall buildings, focusing his binoculars on every little movement. Who was doing the shooting? Where would the bullets come from next?

I photographed him nervously, certain that any sniper seeing a Westerner would immediately pick me as a target.

Tourist Resort Turned Combat Zone

Unbelievably, this was Bangkok, Thailand — a tourist resort, not the center of Baghdad or Kabul. It had become a dangerous place indeed, including for photographers, at least two of whom were killed here in street clashes in April and May.

I moved away from the barricade surrounding the tents that were used as temporary homes by the protesters. I arrived at another barricade and looked around for the colleague I was supposed to be meeting.

Suddenly, a hail of gunfire came from across the barrier toward me.

I stepped out into the open, looking for something I could photograph to illustrate what was happening.

Bang! Everybody froze; a sniper from the nearby building was doing his job.

I telephoned my colleague.

“Where are you?” he screamed over the noise of the gunshots.

“Standing next to the barricade in front of the soldiers,” I replied.

I heard him gasp.

“You’re on the wrong side! Get out of there! The soldiers are starting to move in.”

Eye of the Tiger

I looked around and saw a man with a motorbike. “Can you please take me to the barricade exit?” I asked.

As we weaved among the demonstrators, the driver asked me if I was scared. I didn’t have to think too hard about my reply.

“Yes, yes — I am scared!”

I didn’t have a helmet or a flak jacket. And I knew that waving my camera at the shooting soldiers wouldn’t act as a talisman or give me any protection.

At the barricade exit there was a sign that caught my eye.

“Bangkok City of Life,” it read.

Nearby, there was a collection of gaily painted tiger heads celebrating the Year of the Tiger.

The Tiger of the Chinese zodiac can be warm-hearted, hard-working and independent — but also rash, hotheaded and reckless.

I photographed the Tiger. It summed up Bangkok for me at that moment.