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Fleeing Snipers and Soldiers in Bangkok

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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 [2] indeed, including for photographers, at least two of whom were killed here in street clashes in April and May.


A Buddhist monk searches for snipers in Bangkok.

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.


An image of a tiger in Bangkok.

Photos © Michael Coyne.

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1 Comment To "Fleeing Snipers and Soldiers in Bangkok"

#1 Comment By Denver Photographer Dave Brown On June 12, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

Man that sounds like a tricky situation. I can't believe how brave you were, i would never have put myself in such a precarious situation. Totally wild.