There was a sense yesterday late afternoon that something could move to unlock the situation in which Bangkok’s city center has been plunged for over five weeks by Red Shirts’ protesters. SMS started to come on mobile phones warning of a closure of the Skytrain system from 6:00 pm and about the possible disconnection of cell phone transmissions. Then another SMS from news services announced that the government would deploy over 50 armored vehicles to fully isolate the Rachaprasong/Lumpini Park area.
As all these messages seemed to prevent an imminent attack of the Red Shirts camp by the Thai Army, most offices in the area closed early, while shops lowered their curtains around 6:00 pm. At 7:00 pm, the Silom/Rachaprasong area up to Suan Lum Night Bazaar or Ploenchit areas were deserted. Bangkok was bracing for another quiet evening. Shooting followed during the next 30 minutes, wounding up to 10 persons, including military Red Shirt advisor Saeh Deng.
Bangkok is sinking a little bit more into chaos and continues to see its image battered by the violence. The five-week protest is having a full impact on the once prosperous city center.
Piles of garbage are not collected anymore in the streets affected by the protests, and embassies in the area have been evacuated, while some of the residents of this poach district have moved to hotels. As it is not sure if the army will continue to seal off the Rachaprasong area completey, the few remaining opened buildings will now be closed: the Centara Grand finally closed down on Thursday; PATA offices at Siam Office Tower, near Siam Discovery Shopping Center, will not open until Monday; while more shops and shopping centers (such as Platinum Mall Pratunam) have decided not to open for the time being. Embassies are now advising their citizens to avoid the area. On Friday morning, the Skytrain works partially along the Sukhumvit line. All the stations along the Rachaprasong area remain closed while Chulalongkorn University and Hospital -next to Lumpini Park- did not resume its activities.
Despite being increasingly cut from the outside world, “anti-government protesters will fight to the end and will not stop the rally” declared late on Thursday night Jatuporn Prompan, one of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leaders. Bangkok City Center might then look, for a long time, like a no-man’s land.