Bangkok’s benchmark to normalcy is shopping


(eTN) BANGKOK, Thailand – Last weekend in Bangkok finally gave the Thai capital a renewed sense of confidence after dramatic weeks of violence, which culminated into the looting and arson of major buildings on May 19. After a big clean-up campaign to give back to the capital a more normal face, last weekend finally saw the curfew being lifted, public transport back to normal operation hours, and Bangkok’s Governor opening the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the city’s latest public transport system, on Saturday morning.

From Friday to Sunday afternoon, Silom Road went into a festive mood with the street being turned into a giant pedestrian area filled with small traders, which have been affected by the casualties at Rachaprasong, Silom, and Pratunam and around Victory Monument. First estimations showed that over 400,000 visitors came to Silom Road around the weekend to buy discounted goods under a “Together We Can Grand Sale” campaign. “It is the best way to restore confidence among all Thais,” explained a Silom shop owner.

Although Ratchaprasong will continue for a long time to bear the scars of the last violence – especially with the ruins of Zen Department Store at CentralWorld and the burned-down Siam Theater – flags bearing the slogan, “Love Rachaprasong,” are visible along the boulevard to incite visitors and residents to come back to the area. All around the city slogans such as, “Love Thai, Love Peace,” are flourishing – signs that Bangkok inhabitants, foreign travelers, and business owners feel relieved that the capital is back again to normalcy.

Unfortunately, this legitimate sense of happiness starts also to be exploited from a pure commercial point of view as if shopping, shopping, and again shopping were the only way to heal Bangkok woes and uncertainties. The palm of cynicism can be attributed to the owners of Central Chidlom Department Store. The luxurious store belongs to Central Pattana, the company which saw its CentralWorld mall being partially destroyed by a criminal fire. Central has launched a campaign called, “Reunion,” which is supposed to highlight the feeling of unity among all Thais while celebrating the reopening of the department store.

But “Reunion” is unfortunately looking like an indecent commercial opportunity as it has been associated to a “Sale.” How can a sale campaign been associated to the tragic events of the last weeks with its high toll of victims? Just to remember, over 80 persons died and over 1,000 were wounded in casualties over the last two months. And there is no indication that the money from this “Reunion Sale” will go to the families’ victims or help to reconstruct some of the communities, which suffered from destructions. While Thailand’s Prime Minister has recently explained that the Kingdom should draw lessons from the recent events, it seems that the message does not go well across everybody, as greed continues to drive feeling instead of compassion for some businessmen.