Postcard from the Edge of Bangkok



Last night, I crossed the city twice in a taxi, for the most part on the elevated express way. There was barely any traffic and some exits were blocked by armed soldiers.  Police on motorbikes patrolled the empty four lane highways sporadically. Downtown Bangkok, usually a garishly colorful Bladerunner skyline of high-rises pasted with billboards and electronic advertising displays, lay in almost complete darkness, subsumed by the arrival of a future dystopia in an unprepared present.

I read first reports of a shop being looted this morning – protesters overran a 7/11, apparently. Though the situation in parts of Bangkok has now definitely passed from protest into lawless anarchy. While the fighting continues around the downtown Red Zone, protesters have now also occupied several key intersections around the city, such as Din Daeng and Victory Monument, in a desperate and more brutal replay of last year´s New Year violence in April. On TV, soldiers are kicking and beating unarmed civilians in front of the world`s cameras.

The shopping center at On Nut is busy but not crowded. There`s no panic buying yet, though shoppers load their trolleys high. From the second floor of the shopping center, Bangkok`s skyline is visible through a long window by which people sit and eat their lunch. In the distance, some seven kilometers away, a thick plume of smoke hangs between several high rises. No one appears to take any notice, it is business as unusual on Bangkok´s outskirts. Still, some Thai shoppers do look at me with surprise on their faces. Still here? In this mess?

In my neighborhood, what passes for normal life goes on, though quietly. The cats make more noise than the local residents and the soi dogs walk around with their heads between their tails. The little corner shops open and close at odd hours. The motorbike taxi drivers at the end of my street are much fewer in number. There´s no music to be heard and the restaurants and karaoke bars on the main road are deserted. The two foreigners who have a beer at a nearby bar every single night of the week are not there. Eleven million people are holding their collective breath.

Image by Tom Vater

Read my previous recent entry on Thai politics, Life, Death and Game Shows in Bangkok

Read my previous recent entry on Thai politics, Bangkok Dangerous

Read my previous recent entry on Thai politics, Where is Batman? – Bangkok under Siege

Read my previous recent entry on Thai politics, Violent red tide washes across Bangkok

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