This morning I pulled out my bicycle and, figuring that five days had been enough time to wait, pedaled my way to the various spots that had been affected during the Red Shirts’ protest and the subsequent riots and arson.
At 8:00 on a Sunday the streets were very quiet although there were others out. For closed off sections of road, there were a surprising number of sightseers there to absorb the unimaginable. This raised a question that has crossed my mind many times in the past two months: where were the police?
All in all, there is quite a mess. The damage is a little less extensive than my wild imagination had feared after seeing selected pictures shown again and again last Wednesday while the city was burning. But it is still a mess. Everywhere that the protesters had burned barricades made of tyres, there is a thick layer of burned rubber, a slick that has permeated the asphalt. Plants and landscaping are destroyed, the same fate suffered by every police box in the area.
Please let me share some photos and video with you. The commentary may sound a little pro-government, when in fact I don’t align particularly with any side in this conflict. But after seeing my city heavily damaged, largely by outsiders who claimed to be peaceful, I’m a bit jaded.
My first stop was the Chidlom intersection. You can see the Chidlom Skytrain station and are looking down Ploenchit Road towards Siam Square. There was a very large barricade here that was torched. There are large scorch marks on the underside of the Skytrain station and you can see that the traffic lights melted. The ground by the looted police box is slick with the residue of burned rubber.
The same intersection from the other side, with Soi Lang Suan running off to the back right of the picture. This was the largest contingent of troops I saw. Many soldiers seemed to be assigned to clean-up duty but this bunch was armed and definitely doing security. The curfew is still day-to-day but the hours are being shortened. What started at 8 pm – 6 am is now something like 11 pm – 5 am and will hopefully be lifted in the next few days.
The Ratchaprasong intersection. Ploenchit-Rama I runs left to right through the picture. Straight ahead is Rajadamri Road heading towards Lumpini Park and Silom. On the back right of the picture is the police headquarters. Would you like to ask the obvious question? How in the world was a protest of tens of thousands of people that lasted 40+ days allowed to happen right in front of the nation’s police headquarters? Were there no officers around to put a stop to it when it first started?
The answers lies in the complex politics of Thailand’s military and security services: it has been reported that there are many factions within the police, several of which are loyal to the former Prime Minister.
The Skytrain started running today and will be back to a full schedule starting Monday. The only station not open is Rajadamri due to damage to the station.
Gaysorn Plaza, on the Ratchaprasong corner, appeared to not have sustained much damage. Louis Vuitton, in particular, seems to have come through unscathed. Given the number of LV knock-offs sold in Thailand, I can only imagine that the shop was saved only by its immense popularity, even among Red Shirts.
The collapsed section of Central World Plaza, which was still smoldering. This is in the Atrium section, a part of the mall that was new construction since I moved here. The right half of the mall is expected to be reopened within six months but this portion and to the left will have to be completely razed and rebuilt.
Doesn’t that look like more damage than would be caused by a couple of Molotov Cocktails? Sure enough, the authorities report finding at least one compressed gas cylinder amid the debris. At the nearby Four Seasons hotel, it is reported that several cylinders were found, wired to make a bomb.
Along the Rama I side of Central World, you can see the extensive damage to the Zen department store. No word as to whether the high-rise portion was affected, but I cannot imagine how the structure could not have sustained damage.
Down the street in Siam Square the damage was also extensive. Of the six or seven soi (alleys) in Siam Square, it appears that two suffered extensive damage. This building is on the corner of Rama I and Henri Dunant Roads.
I had originally heard that both the Siam and Scala theatres, the last two independent single-screen cinemas in Bangkok, had burned. Thankfully the Scala, architecturally the more interesting of the two, survived unscathed.
However, the building housing the Siam, as well as dozens of small, owner operated shops, was destroyed. This area is immediately below the Siam Skytrain station, directly across from Siam Paragon mall.
Extensive damage to many shops.
There are still some coils of razor wire here and there. This is at the Payathai – Rama I intersection across from MBK Mall. These appear to be awaiting clean-up and are not part of any current security operation.
The Metropolitan Electric Authority office in Khlong Toei along Rama IV Road (between the expressway and Asoke-Ratchadapisek Road) was completely destroyed. There are still sections of this generally poor neighborhood that are without electricity.
The good news is that there was an important sign of the city coming together this morning, a volunteer clean up effort which drew at least 1,000 people to Lumpini Park and the Silom-Saladaeng neighborhood. The name of the event: Together We Can.
Okay, I’m ready to put this topic aside for now and move on to other things.