Coup d’état in Bangkok
Late this afternoon the Army declared a coup d'état in Bangkok announcing that it was taking control and would be running the country from 4:30 PM today.
I will not be commenting on the political aspects of the situation. I will however provide comments from the ground for those who may be planning to visit Bangkok at this time.
The most pertinent thing is that there is now a nationwide curfew in place from 10 PM – 5 AM until further notice. People are requested not to leave their homes between those times unless it is an emergency.
Restaurants, bars and shops will all close, probably well before 10 PM as staff have to be given a chance to get home before the curfew begins. Nightlife areas like Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza will be closed – the odd bar may remain open until 9:00 PM or so.
For naughty boy visitors, this is probably your worst nightmare. Bars in Bangkok are closed tonight and I'd expect the curfew to last at least a few days meaning bars will be closed through this time.
In Bangkok, the popular naughty bar areas are largely in darkness.
In Soi Cowboy, Dollhouse is open tonight until 9:00 while most other bars are closed.
Nana Plaza is closed.
Even Patpong which is almost always open is closed.
Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy will open with revised hours from 2:30 PM until 9:30 PM until the curfew ends. The opening hours may change if the curfew is extended in the next few days.
One would expect that beer bars in Soi Nana and other establishments which open during the day should be business as usual.
Down Pattaya way, police have been in to bars in Jomtien and told owners that the curfew will be enforced and they must close. On Pattaya's notorious soi 6 a police vehicle drove along the soi with a loudspeaker saying the same thing. Bars on Walking Street opened early in the evening as per usual but were later all ordered to close.
The last curfew in Thailand was during the Red Shirt occupation of Rachaprasong in the hot season of 2010 so we can look to that as an example of what may happen this time around. The Thais are generally pragmatic and typically you will not get in trouble or be arrested if you are out during the hours of the curfew. You can go to or come from the airport without restriction. However, if you are just roaming around or loitering, you may be ordered to return to your hotel / apartment.
For mainstream tourists in Thailand at this time, those here to visit the temples, experience the culture, sample the food etc. it should largely be business as usual. You may come across soldiers in places but don't be concerned – they are there to help keep the peace.
I have not seen any soldiers in downtown Bangkok although I imagine they may move in to positions throughout the evening. As an anecdote, I did spot small numbers of soldiers while roaming through Chinatown this afternoon. At various intersections around the city, especially at intersections in the outskirts where traffic comes in to the city from the provinces are large numbers of soldiers on patrol.
Traffic is absolute grid-lock in downtown Bangkok at the time of posting, around 8:30 PM, as people rush to get home.
The skytrain and underground services will stop operating tonight at 9:00 PM. Queues for the services are said to be really long.
It's business as usual at all airports nationwide.
All TV channels are off the air, not just local and international news channels but everything from sports channels to Animal Planet! (For those in Thailand, you can still watch BBC and CNN reports at their respective websites.)
All 7 Eleven stores will close at 10:00 PM.
Schools have been told to close on 23rd, 24th and 25th May.
The Internet can still be used and assurances have been given that Internet service will not be cut or disrupted.
In terms of personal safety, there is nothing to be concerned about. If you're out and about it might be an idea to carry your passport with you in case you happen to get stopped during curfew hours.
The last coup d'état in Bangkok took place in 2006 and the last time the city was under curfew was in 2010. The effect on everyday life didn't last long and things quickly returned to normal. Here's hoping it's the same this time around.