In April, the hottest month of the year in Thailand, all activity in Bangkok slows to a molasses pace. But in the spring of 2010, Bangkok was anything but quiet. Tens of thousands of red-shirted protestors descended upon the city to protest against the government, which they viewed as illegitimate and unsympathetic to the working class, and to call for a new election. They mostly hailed from poorer villages in the rural northeast, or from working-class suburbs. At first, the protests seemed like a village street party. Demonstrators snacked on sticky rice and grilled chicken, and danced in circles to bands playing mor lam, a northeastern Thai music that, with its wailing guitars and plaintive, yodeling vocals, resembles an Asian version of Hank Williams.
Within weeks, however, the demonstrations turned violent, leading to the worst bloodshed in Bangkok in two decades. On April 10, the troops cracked down hard, sometimes shooting randomly into the crowds. By the end of the day, 24 people had been killed.