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Bangkok almost back to normal by Monday (updated on Saturday, May 22, 4:00 pm)

Luc Citrinot, etn  May 22, 2010

The situation in Bangkok continues to improve. On Saturday morning, cleaning teams were active around Siam Square and Rachaprasong collecting garbage, disinfecting sidewalks, and checking on the safety of infrastructure such as skytrain stations, escalators, and electricity. From tomorrow, the Underground subway will operate from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm and will resume its normal hours from Monday. Skytrain services will start to operate again on Monday. The current curfew should be also lifted by tomorrow, with shops resuming their normal opening hours.

It will, however, take time to erase the physical and moral scars generated by the week of extreme violence that took place between the army and anti-government forces. Shopping paradise, Rachaprasong, still looked like hell today, with smoke still coming from the ruins of Zen Department Store at CentralWorld shopping mall. The acrid smell of smoke and putrified garbage is persistent in the air. Blackened sidewalks and buildings facades; destroyed telephone booths and advertising billboards; the rubble of Siam Theater, one of the few avant-garde cinemas surviving in Bangkok - they all leave a sad feeling to those witnessing these sights, and it will take time to see those eyesores disappear.

It seems that for many Thais, something is irreversibly gone. Many motorcycle drivers, taxis, and workers' shops continue to express their sympathy to the movement. The people cleaning rubble and garbage at CentralWorld are probably from the same region - Isaan mostly - as the Red Shirts protesters a week ago. Finding a half-burnt red flag in the garbage, a cleaning lady proudly rose it for a couple of seconds before throwing it in a garbage truck. Over the chaos, miraculously preserved advertising billboards offer a sharp contrast with reality. On a couple of them, a handsome white-skinned, Chinese-looking young Thai man advertises a deodorant - a world away from the dark Isaan workers busy cleaning the streets.

Bangkok almost back to normal by Monday (updated on Saturday, May 22, 4:00 pm)
Zen Department Store on Saturday morning (photo Luc Citrinot)

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