Eyewitness account: from the streets of Bangkok
Thursday, September 21, 2006
A businessman currently representing his place of employment in Thailand has left the following eyewitness account for Wikinews:
- "How safe are the streets of Bangkok? As a somewhat nervous US citizen holed up in a hotel room in this massive South Asian metropolis, I decided to venture forth and see for myself. For courage as much as anything, I walked with my close friend and business partner, who like me, hails from San Diego, California.
- "I left my suite at the Royal River Hotel and walked down Soi Charansandwong, the narrow street that leads from the hotel to the busy road that crosses the city and shortly thereafter, the Chao Phraya River, known as the 'River of Kings.'
- "Thailand does, indeed, love their kings, or particularly, their current King. Evidence of this is clear: at least a third of the people walking on the streets wear the 'King Shirt,' a bright yellow shirt that bears the crest of the King.
- "Even newsreaders on the local television news can sometimes be seen wearing the yellow shirt as a showing of support for the King.
- "Leaving the alleyway, we walked to the busy Thonburi district. Immediately, I could see a group of soldiers, some standing, others sitting, along a sidewalk on the main street. They had set up a check point, but I saw but one vehicle stopped, a beat up truck that appeared to have come in from the countryside, loaded with fruit.
- "We passed all the various businesses along the street as we walked, all open and apparently unaffected by the Coup.
- "Walking slowly down to where the soldiers were and smiling at them as we walked, we approached the man who appeared to be the commanding officer. He smiled back and asked us where we were from. He was a bit business like at first, but this was a man who had a job to do, of course. What his overall job was, I am not sure. It appears that the military, for the most part, is present as a show of support and to act if any anti-Coup action should take place. Perhaps they are merely present to keep the peace.
- "My friend noticed that the soldiers appeared to be uncomfortable in their uniforms, not the most comfortable clothing to wear in the hot and humid world that is Bangkok.
- "Each soldier, unable to wear a yellow shirt and stay in uniform, instead bore a yellow ribbon of support for the King, usually tied to his rifle.
- "Walking back to a small stand, we purchased twenty bottles of cold drinks and returned to the soldiers and handed them to the officer in charge. He smiled and accepted the offering and handed them out to his men.
- "As we continued to walk down the sidewalk, three women came out of their shop, one wearing a yellow king shirt, and they thanked us for the gesture.
- "The streets of Bangkok, otherwise, appeared completely normal in all respects. Street vendors hawked various items of food, car shops were installing high tech stereo systems and dogs, here and there, sat quietly in whatever shady spot they could find.
- "We crossed the street and walked down an alleyway to the nearest Temple. Walking on the cool, green grounds of the Temple complex, the Coup felt like it was a million miles distant. Bowing and placing our palms together, we greeted a monk on the grounds who was trimming a hedge. Despite the Coup, Bangkok seemingly remains peaceful in all respects. We could smell the delightful scent of freshly cut grass.
- "Earlier, I asked the doorman at the Royal River Hotel what he thought about the Coup. 'We needed it, " he smiled, "things were too corrupt. Don't worry. It should all be over in three days or so.'
- "Perhaps. But, certainly, I felt no danger on the street from the army or from anyone I encountered. Returning to Soi Charansandwong, I approached an ATM and withdrew a couple of hundred dollars worth of Baht, the currency of Thailand, with my US bank issued card.
- "Money in hand, I entered a tailor shop and sat down with the shop manager, who was from India, and ordered a new suit to be made. As he measured me, I asked if business had been slowed due to the Coup. 'No, not at all. I sold a suit today to another American, as a matter of fact.' He promised me that my suit, which included two pairs of pants and two custom made dress shirts, would be ready early the next morning.
- "We left the alleyway and once again walked down the busy road. The commanding officer gave us a very big smile this time as we passed him and several of the soldiers gave smaller, shy smiles as we passed. Encouraged, we once again popped into a small shop and bought additional soft drinks to hand out."
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