Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Running the Barricades at 'Shutdown Bangkok'

In the midst of an unplanned week off from school caused by the political unrest here in Bangkok. The anti-government protests are into their third month now, and neither side seems willing to back down. All of us can only speculate as to how and when its going to end. School was canceled for students on Monday, but we teachers were required to attend. On Tuesday, things sorta got back to normal with about 70% of the students showing up to school, the main protest sites miles away and no significant disruptions.

Then, Tuesday night, the staff (not us farang, the Thai staff) all got together, talked about it and decided to close the school for the remainder of the week.

I'll refrain from talking about any of the issues or positions involved; it's not my fight. Suffice to say that this is the week the opposition promised to 'shutdown Bangkok' by blocking major intersections, government buildings and stopping traffic.

I had an appointment at the dermatologist this morning not more than half a block away from Victory Monument, one of the city's main junctions and a site of one of the protests main stages. I was seriously wondering if I'd be able to get my motorcycle through the blockades and to the clinic. I thought I would go ahead and try.

Fortunately, the appointment was for 9 AM, and a lot of the protestors were still getting up, some had to go to work, what have you. I got through with only the smallest of detours to circumvent the main stage. Here's a pic of the main stage:

Err.. I got photobombed.

Alas, my video camera is still broken, so these half-hearted pics com from the phone. After taking a couple snaps, I kind of got a vibe that maybe this wasn't the place for a farang to be taking holiday
snaps. I got some dirty looks. I'm no empath, but I felt like the protestors were starting to get grumpy, frustrated and tired. This has been going on a long time now. How this increased feeling of discontent will effect the endgame of 'Shutdown Bangkok', I can't say for sure, but it is interesting to think about.

Thing is though Shutdown Bangkok has never even stated its goals to be to completely shutdown the city. They were only going to block most traffic, not all.

Here's one of their barricades on one of the main feeder roads into Victory Monument. It's a 6-lane boulevard. The barricade takes up 3 and a half lanes in the middle of the road. It's an annoyance, a symbol. Still, the main positions taken up by the protestors are replete with walls of sandbags, metal gates and (unarmed) guards.

Would your country or city authorities tolerate a group of protestors setting up sandbagged bunkers in the middle of major intersections?

I got out of the area with pretty much the same amount of ease, and since it was still early, I stopped at one of the few 'diners' in Bangkok and had myself an American-style breakfast. 

What's going to happen next?  Who knows...  

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