Bangkok Protests & Coup d'état January 13th, 2014

The Bangkok Shutdown By Day


The protesters' great shutdown of Bangkok started last night with stages set up. From early this morning protesters started piling in to the 7 site protest sites, 6 in downtown Bangkok and 1 out on Chaeng Wattana Road, blocking the huge Government Complex.

I was out and about from early this morning and when I reached the Asoke intersection not much after 8:00 AM I could not believe the numbers. This protest is massive, much bigger than any of the protests to date – much, much bigger!

I visited 3 of the protest areas – Asoke, the Rachaprasong intersection (Central World) and the Patumwan intersection (MBK), spending more than an hour at each and walking between them to get a feel for what's happening and what the feeling is on the ground.

The Asoke intersection was over-run with protesters well before 9 AM, and Rachadapisek Road was closed all the way from south of Sukhumvit up to Petchaburi Road.

Around Asoke, some businesses are open, some are closed. There is no real pattern to it. I get the feeling that as the days go on, more businesses will close.

Terminal 21 was open and was mobbed with protesters going in and out to use the toilets. Many restaurants in the shopping centre were packed.

That's in contrast with the popular food delivery company with expats, Food by Phone, which has ceased service temporarily.

After Asoke, I walked along Sukhumvit Road towards Nana. It was dead with hardly any traffic at all.

Getting around downtown is a problem.

The skytrain is packed to capacity and just buying a ticket looks like it could take 30 minutes at some stations.

Getting a cab, well, all I can say is good luck! They're few and far between downtown. Same with tuktuks.

Motorbike taxis seem to be doing a good trade. There are plenty of them around and they can go almost anywhere.

The underground is busy, but nothing like the skytrain. However, getting in to the Sukhumvit underground station was a nightmare early today with hordes of protesters right outside the entrances. It was not that they were trying to prevent people from using them, it's just that every available space was taken by protesters looking for a place to perch.

Rachaprasong, the Central World intersection, was busier again. It was very mobbed around the intersection and close to the stage and you could easily get stuck in a crowd and not be able to get out, a potentially scary situation.

It was packed from Rachaprasong along Rama 1 Road, past the National Police HQ all the way to Siam Square and the MBK intersection so rather than battle my way through the crowds, I went along Petchaburi Road past Panthip Plaza.

The Patumwan (MBK) intersection was busier still with masses of people all the way to the Siam BTS station. It was extremely cramped and uncomfortable walking around the area.

I did not see a single policeman the whole time I was out there. The only reminder that the police even exist was when two protesters pulled down the police banner hanging over the western entrance to Soi Cowboy. It was replaced with a banner with a message from the protesters.

The shutdown of Bangkok is everything the protesters said it would be and more. In addition to the intersections that the protest leaders announced would be closed, some other streets have also been closed. There are huge numbers of people which FAR exceeds anything the red shirts did in 2010. The sheer number of protesters and the density of people at some protest sites makes me think there are many, many times more people than any previous protest.

If you have plans to visit Bangkok as a tourist at this time, I'd suggest that perhaps that is not such a good idea. Unless you really know the city well, I would seriously consider postponing. If you have a number of visits under your belt, you know your way around and the real likelihood of major inconvenience does not concern you, then by all means come. Let's just put it this way, if any of my friends or family from home asked for advice on whether they should visit or not at this time – and they have all visited Bangkok multiple times – I'd tell them to postpone their trip, or go somewhere else in Thailand.



Asoke Intersection


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The Sukhumvit MRT station entrance / exit just a few metres from the western end of Soi Cowboy.



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The scene at Asoke, with Soi Cowboy to the left



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A lovely lady sitting in Soi Cowboy and I have a chat about the protest.



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Helping getting everything set up, that's Terminal 21 in the background.



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Heaps and heaps of signs featured profanity.



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A protester grabs a bowl of noodles out front of Suzy Wong's in Soi Cowboy.



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This was the scene a little after 8:00 AM! Everything was set up and the Asoke intersection already had thousands and thousands of protesters.



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Walking around the area was a nightmare and you'd get stuck in between people and couldn't go anywhere. If Asoke seemed bad, Rachaprasong and Patumwan were much more crowded and much, much worse!



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Early morning at the Asoke intersection, one of the busiest downtown and the road is closed. It was chaotic trying to get to work this morning, many working from home and many simply not going!



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Mobile toilets were brought in.



Sukhumvit Road, between Asoke and Rachaprasong


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Sukhumvit Road this morning, from the pedestrian walk bridge at soi 12, looking up towards Nana.



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A street food vendor near Sukhumvit soi 10 remains open and has plenty of business. Many people could be soon walking around, hunting for food with so many shops and restaurants closed.



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A common sight on Sukhumvit, foreigners attempting to convince Somchai to take them somewhere. In almost all cases the cab drove of without the passengers. Either he simply didn't want to go where the wanted to go or he wanted more than they were willing to pay.



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The Nana intersection around 10:30 AM. Even in the middle of the night it is never this quiet!



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In Soi Nana it was business as usual.



Rachaprasong Intersection (Central World)


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Rachaprasong



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Rachaprasong was much busier than Asoke, and Patumwan (the MBK intersection), was busier again.



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Every vantage point was taken and some places remind me of those scenes you see of trains in India where people ride on the roof.



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Many of the big hotels had barriers up only allowing guests to enter. Some hotels were simply inaccessible by any form of transport.

All shopping malls were open although some had shorter opening hours than usual. Central World, for example, did not open until midday.



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This is where the main stage was when the red shirts occupied swathes of downtown Bangkok in the first half of 2010. This protest dwarfs that in protester numbers.



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A happy new year? For who, I wonder.



Petchaburi Road


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From Rachaprasong, the road was closed all the way up to Petchaburi Road which had very few cars.



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Petchaburi Road, one of the busiest roads in the city and here, just along from Panthip Plaza, there were hardly any vehicles on the road.



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Saphan Hua Chang (AKA Elephant Head Bridge), a few hundred metres north of MBK, on Phyathai Road.



Patumwan Intersection (MBK)


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Scenes reminiscent of 2010 with protesters hiding under umbrellas.



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The area out front of MBK was the most crowded of the three areas I visited. It was shoulder to shoulder all the way along to the Siam Square BTS station. If you don't like crowds, I'd avoid the protest spots.



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Between MBK and Siam Square it was just crazy and getting anywhere took forever.

You really do get the feeling that the protesters aren't going anywhere and they're here for as long as it takes…