Thursday, May 22, 2014

Being in Bangkok During a Coup

Looking up Asoke (toward the National Convention Center) from near Sukhumvit.

Sukhumvit and Asoke at 5:05 a.m.

Light traffic at Asoke and Sukhumvit at 5:05 a.m.

Front page of the newspaper on May 23, 2014.
It's 5:40 a.m. on Friday, May 23, 2014.  It's quiet in Bangkok.  The military announced it was taking over the government of Thailand yesterday.  

I arrived in Bangkok from Myanmar yesterday about 3:00 p.m.  Traffic on the freeways was light but seemed even heavier than usual on both Sukhumvit and Asoke.  I saw a few soldiers on sidewalks but if I hadn't known differently, I would have assumed they were police doing their normal routines.

After checking in to Citypoint Hotel, near the Asoke BTS station, I went shopping at nearby Terminal 21.  The mall was crowded with shoppers and uniformed school kids.  My focus was on buying grocery items at Gourmet Market that aren't available in Mandalay rather than on the coup.

Leaving the mall at 6:30 p.m. I walked through the typically busy BTS/MRT interchange station at Asoke.  I have never seen it so busy.  It didn't help that people were stopping in their tracks to take cell phone photos of the crowds.  I just kept slowly pushing through the crowd, anxious to get back on the street.

I spent a quiet evening in my hotel.  It was clear there was something happening when the television stations began shutting down.  By 10:00 p.m., when the curfew began, there were only three television stations broadcasting anything but a screen which said "National Peace and Order Maintaining Council" along with symbols of what I assume are the very military branches.  BBC and CNN and a sports station (playing all tennis) are the only stations still broadcasting.  CNN just announced they are committed to stay on the air to let the people of Thailand know what is happening during this critical time.

The streets were eerily quiet during the night, although not deserted.  Nothing like normal traffic levels but I could still hear the sounds of cars, trucks and motorbikes from my hotel room.  

At 5:00 a.m. this morning when the curfew ended, I headed out to see what was happening.  The intersection of Sukhumvit and Asoke, very near my hotel, is one of the busiest in Bangkok.  Clearly, people had ignored the curfew to be out driving, but traffic was significantly lighter than normal.  

I saw no military.  I'm hoping that it will be business as usual today.  I plan to head to MBK to buy shoes and school supplies.  Fingers crossed that the military will follow through on keeping peace and remaining neutral as they try to sort out the political mess.

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