Joggers and other users of Bangkok’s Lumphini Park were complaining that their use of the area was being hindered by the protesters camped there. That obstruction is probably going to change, but it’s going to get worse. The leaders of the protest decided to close all the other protest sites, unblock the roads and move all activities to the park.
I walked to the park late Sunday morning and got in the middle of the thousands of people setting up camp, listening to speeches, waiting in food lines and lazing in the shade to escape the hot sun. Compared to the park yesterday, this is a huge change. My guess is that nobody will be able to use the park for activities like jogging, bicycle riding, or outdoor aerobics classes.
Saturday, I strolled to more remote areas of the park, and there were still some pockets of quiet and serenity in the lush landscape of tropical trees and flowers.
Even in some of the tent encampments the scene was peaceful, almost serene.
That peacefulness is gone, I suspect. Throughout the park, hundreds of new tents have been erected with the arrival of protesters from the other sites. I wish everyone well, but I’m afraid they’re not making any friends with the other users of the park.
The mood, though, remains festive, almost like Mardi Gras, with people wearing smiles along with costumes and accessories that proclaim their involvement. Here are a few of them.
Foreign expats are involved, also. A German resident of Bangkok and his wife are outfitted appropriately.
I entered the area again on Sunday night, and the number of people had dramatically increased from that morning. Thousands more protesters had arrived from the now-closed sites, and walking around near the stage was almost impossible. I was squashed from both sides in a slow moving line that was going nowhere in particular. At the first opportunity, I bailed out into an open area. Taking photos was equally difficult. The one below shows the main stage, but it doesn’t quite give the impression of the large crowd.
I was able to work my way to another exit from the park, just down the road from the subway station. I walked back to the main intersection of Silom and Rama IV roads. As you can see, traffic is back to normal. No more casual strolling down the middle of the street.
That was my brush with the protest areas in Bangkok. It seemed a different kind of protest from the ones in which people were killed in the violence. I hope we don’t see news headlines like that again.