Bangkok, a city under seige

Ive been in Bangok since last Wednesday, the day after I arrived ‘things kicked off again’ with the red shirts.  This time around, its been the worst ever.

So whats it like when you’re in the midst?

Firstly, we are staying near ‘On-nut’ skytrain station.  On-Nut sits at one end of the Sukhimvit Line, over Sukhimvit road – the longest road in Thailand (I’ve read its the longest  road in the world, but im not sure how reliable the source was that provided that information) and the most well known, biggest road in Bangkok.  And the violent, political rioting, especially this past week, has disrupted the Sukhimvit ‘main vein’ of Bangkok.  After a couple of weeks of not much happening, the first I knew of anything having erupted again was on Friday morning, when I set off to use the sky train – to find i could only go four stops and that was it.  Pretty much every other station was closed besides those four, less than 24 hours later, all of them were closed.

Im in Bangkok for a week, getting some dental work while Im here.  Luckily, I had the foresight to book us into a hotel near the dental hospital – with the sky train closed, we are only ten minutes by taxi to the dentists.  And in this end of town – taxis are easy to get, markets are operating day and night, food stalls line the streets and shopping centres are as busy as ever.  You could be forgiven for thinking that whats happening only a few kilometers away, is not really happening – for near us, life goes on and theres no sign of black smoke from burning tyres, we cant hear gun shots or grenades, or see armoured vehicles or rolls of razor wire and bamboo spears.

We saw the warnings to leave, we’ve heard what NZ government is advising, and I know the New Zealand embassy in Bangkok is presently closed, but still, Im here.  I think its harder to feel the threats when you cant see anything around you – except on television. And the Thais, in this area, are also going about business as usual – but some of the news reports we’ve read paint it in a different light, making it sound like the whole city’s in lock down mode, hence family and friends at home start panicking that over here, were about to get hit by a stray bullet.

I’m not ignorant to the plight of what is going on, and I would regret not leaving if it becomes so bad that… Im trapped? But the reality is, around us, outside the immediate red shirt zone of Bangkok, life is ticking along.  The only other sign I’ve noticed, in this district, that something is going on was that I was able to cross the very busy road outside the dental hospital, without weaving my way through four lanes of traffic – the road was eerily empty.  That was on Monday.

I came through Bangkok during early April, and was in a hotel less than a kilometer from Lumpini Park – the headquarter zone for the red shirts. I went running in Lumpini Park one morning, back in April, and the red shirt presence was only just there.  There was one day, in a taxi ride home from the dentists, we got caught up in a procession of red shirt demonstrators – but from the ‘safety’ of a taxi, we watched it pass us by, and really, had no idea back then about what it was all about.  That night, the 17th of April, was a big, violent out-pouring of protestations and not long after, we headed north to Chiang Mai, where, from watching newspapers and news channels, things appeared to die down – to more recently Thais joking that it was now too hot for the red shirts to protest, so they were sitting low and suffering the heat.

So today, Wednesday, after much speculation and mixed reports – people inside and out have been glued to tv screens, watching the action unfold as its televised from (seemingly) every channel.  And now, not long after midday, reports are saying its done, over, we have red shirt leaders that have handed themselves over to police.

During all this coverage, many ‘experts’ have been interviewed – political advisors, economic forecasters etc, and although the outcome of this mornings invasion from the army may be in favor of the government, there is still a threat from red shirts – re grouping and coming back for more, guerilla warfare, civil war.. all of its been mentioned.

In the meantime, we’re in Bangkok until Friday, when we fly back to Chiang Mai.  The next 24 hours could prove very interesting.  Maybe the 47 countries who had Thailand on a red alert for security risks will be able to change adjust the status and things may return to normal – Il have a day to witness what comes next.

I hope, for everyones sake, that its peaceful

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