Apologies for yet another post on Bangkok protests but they are hard to ignore when on our doorstep. So we are now 4 days into the ‘Shutdown Bangkok’ protests and they don’t look to be going away. The Government appear happy to hold for a February 2nd (2014) election and the crowds of protesters will in no doubt continue to fill the streets. But can the Bangkok protests hold out ‘indefinitely’? I don’t see why not. Most of the crowds are locals, Bangkokians, they continue to live their normal daily lives sparing a few hours to join local protests. So life goes on in Bangkok. While ‘Shutdown Bangkok’ was aimed at crippling the city’s traffic it seems only to have lightened it, I’ve been taxiing round the city centre in record time and people have been transferring to public transport, which is only a good thing. Bangkok protest sites are easy to avoid and a detour should find your destination no problem.
The Bangkok protests have remained surprisingly, non-violent to date and while there was little expectation of aggressive protesters, there was always the likeliness of attacks from the outside, attacks from militant reds and ‘third parties’ who like to stir up a bit of shit. Fortunately any violent scenario is deterred by the army who hold the sidelines, if things do kick off there is always the possibility of a coup; which neither side want. So now the situation stands as a stalemate, the pressure no doubt on the Government’s shoulders. While they can ignore the shouts for reform they cannot ignore their empty offices. Adding to their woes the Government and PM have mounting investigations of corruption and thousands of farmers have now joined protests in their own Northern strongholds. It’s not a great time to be in Government. Anyway the egos are holding for now and the protests remain a likely backdrop in Bangkok for the foreseeable future. This does not mean tourists should cancel travel; while Bangkok is not the ideal place to be right now I wouldn’t say it is a dangerous place to be. If you do have jitters you’ll find few problems travelling to other parts of Thailand. For those who chose to stick it out in Bangkok, stay with hotels away from the protest sites and don’t expect travel to be easy in the city centre (but you maybe fine). While I’ve been in Bangkok through many protests I can say these are the least intimidating to date. Unlike former red protests they bare little anger or aggression and are more upbeat, positive and not for underlying tensions… fun. Anyway here is what to expect at the protest sites in Bangkok city centre Sukhumvit (Asoke) and Silom. *Update, the first daylight attack happened today (18th Jan) on a protest march in Pathumwan. A few injured. Marches will always be easier targets than the camp sites, avoid them. Also avoid Suthep, the reds don’t like him.
In morning hours expect early risers with early noise. Remember protesters camp onsite throughout the night and while most will wake with cheers and whistles the main stage isn’t far behind with loud speakers kicking-off around 08.30 (or at least this is how things have been at Asoke). I’ve been passing through the Asoke stage regularly finding thinner crowds during the day. Most locals continue their daily lives and the permanent protesters remain under shelter of marquees, tents and the skytrain line; Bangkok is hot during daytime. To raise enthusiasm and attract the lunchtime crowds protest sites host live music performances and market stalls; they become like mini-festivals. Note if there is a countdown be ready to put fingers in ears, this is likely the countdown to a mass whistle blow.
Crowds can double and more in the evening hours; work’s out, the sun’s down and locals join to support their local Bangkok protest. Street food stalls pop up and supporters come to eat, banter, take selfies etc. Evenings are by far the more cheery, lively and exciting. Worth a visit? The main stage is now taken over by political speakers who catch the crowds while at their largest. Expect a lot of shouting, a lot of clappies and a lot of whistles. You won’t likely catch a word of their rhetoric other than ‘Yingluck’… they say that a lot. Evening hours are likely the best times to visit protest sites but do not stay too late. Darker hours are the more dangerous hours. Arriving to main protest sites you will need to pass security guards who check baggage etc. for weapons.