General Ramblings Travel — 20 May 2010

t30 23468987 e1274332657172 Bangkok on Fire

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arrow 3 Bangkok on Fire

I don’t even have time to write an update before something new and crazy happens here. I hate posting all of this non-poker related stuff but people are asking for updates every time CNN or someone shows the latest going on so I want to give people the lowdown without all the hype and misinformation.

Okay, I woke up Wednesday morning and flipped on the tube after reading a few tweets that the army was busting down the red shirt barricades. Basically this means the beginning of the end for the protests.

I flipped on TPBS (Thai PBS) but my Thai wasn’t good enough to follow the reports. What I did see was armored personnel carriers were running over the bamboo and tire makeshift barricades near Lumpini Park. I flipped over to CNN and they had some aerial view of the area and their reporters were calling in via phone from Lang Suan and Wireless Road (Wittayu Road).

All in all, TPBS had the better coverage but I couldn’t understand it. CNN had crappy coverage but at least it was in English. I switched back and forth between the two trying to get a clear picture of what was going on.

Basically I was able to piece together that the shit was going down. The Center for Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) announced that this was going to be the final operation against the red shirts.

After some sporadic fighting in Lumpini Park the army had had secured a major piece of real estate that the red shirts had held for weeks. Marching the rest of the way up Ratchadamri would be relatively effortless but the army wanted to keep loss of life to a minimum so it slowed the pace in order to give the red shirts time to evacuate.

I thought to myself, “Well, this is it. Maybe in a day or two I can go back to my old apartment and pick up my stuff. It’s just a matter of time until the red shirt leaders surrender.”

t08 23463049 e1274333758284 Bangkok on Fire

I started to go about my day normally. The air con repairman came over and my girlfriend went to Carrefour to do some shopping.
I had the windows open and could smell smoke so I checked Twitter and it seems all hell had broken loose since I had last checked in.

The red shirt leaders were forced to surrender but the militant arm refused to go down so easily. They set about trying to burn Bangkok to the ground. They fanned out across the city looting and setting everything they could on fire.

They were targeting banks, especially Bangkok Bank and Kasikorn Bank. The later being my bank. Supposedly those banks have ties to enemies of the red shirts. They were also burning the Channel 3 building. That one I didn’t understand because they’re not even a news channel. They play (bad) Thai movies. Maybe they have some ownership thing too.

t17 23466815 e1274333871353 Bangkok on Fire

But the most shocking images though were of Central World and Siam Square ablaze. When the rally broke up protesters had broken the windows at Central World and set fire inside the shopping mall.

t29 23467369 e1274333936413 Bangkok on Fire

I sent my girlfriend a message telling her about the recent events and telling her to get home asap.

She called me immediately and said that the red shirts had already made it to Carrefour and were threatening to burn the place down. The management at Carrefour made the curious decision to lock the doors and trap everyone inside. Not exactly what I would recommend in a fire but that’s just me.

She was eventually able to talk a security guard into letting her slip out and she came back to the apartment.

The first thing she said was “You better go downstairs and get some stuff. 7-11 told the motorcycle taxi drivers they were closing soon.”

I grabbed my wallet and went downstairs and 7-11 had already closed. Damn!

I went back upstairs and we watched TPBS. From time to time we looked out the window and we could see plumes of black smoke rising up from various parts of the city.

t39 23468729 e1274334010151 Bangkok on Fire

Then the power went out so we decided to go downstairs. It doesn’t take long for the apartment to turn into a cooker with no ac and no fans. The soi I live on is mostly shaded so when a breeze blows through it cools off before hitting the end of the soi.

We chatted with the motorcycle taxi drivers for awhile. One motorcycle taxi dude came speeding up and stopped in front of us as he rattled away in Thai to his buddies. My girlfriend told me that he said that he was on his way home in Klong Thoei and someone started firing at him. He decided to abort and head back to work (the sidewalk in front of my apartment).

I texted my friend who owns a bar on Soi 22 and asked if he was going to be open tonight. I figured after a day like today getting drunk and being around other foreigners was just what I needed. He sent a message back saying that CRES had just announced that Bangkok was under curfew from 8pm until 6am tomorrow.

I checked Twitter again and received word that the movie theatre in Siam Square had burned totally to the ground and that there were now fears that Central World might collapse on itself due to structural damage caused by the fire which still was blazing.

There were also reports that firefighters who had come to put out both fires were being shot at and had to let the buildings burn.

We asked if any of the other local 7-11’s were open and the motorcycle taxi drivers said everything was closed. We called a friend who lives on Soi 22 and asked if the Family Mart was still open and she said she didn’t know but if she went she would pick us up some water and food.

I said, “F*ck this, let’s walk over to 22. Something has to be open.” So we headed up to Sukhumvit to see what we could find.

Sukhumvit was an surreal sight. All traffic heading in the direction of On Nut was deadlocked. It was bumper to bumper and nobody was moving. But there was no traffic going the opposite direction. Not a single car!

As we passed the Phrom Phong BTS we saw a guy carring grocery bags from Villa Market and me and my girlfriend both looked at each other and smiled.

We crossed over to the other side of the street and we passed a group of middle-aged Thai women and one of them said to her friends “Look at all the traffic. I wonder what’s going on.”

Villa Market was packed. We grabbed water, beer (of course), and some basic food stuffs. We have no pots or pans in the new place yet so if you can’t microwave it, it’s worthless.

After we finished at Villa we went to Subway and I got a 12” Italian BMT and ate it there while my girlfriend went out on the street to buy some roasted beef and sticky rice. The staff looked like they were scared sh*tless. They had blocked and locked the main entrance and were only allowing people in the side door.

I’m not sure if they were scared of red shirts coming and burning something or people running out of food and looting the restaurant. Maybe it was both.

After I finished eating we walked back home. The electricity had been restored so first order of business was to get the beer chilled.

The rest of the night we spent watching TPBS and looking out the window from time to time to watch smoke rising in the skyline. I contemplated sitting out by the pool for a bit but I got too addicted to the news updates so we stayed in.

I woke up this morning and haven’t seen any smoke from my windows yet. No military helicopters hovering overhead. No explosions or gunfire. The local news is reporting that banks will be closed today and tomorrow but ATMs should still work. The PM had already declared the entire week to be a public “holiday” so government offices were already closed.

I’m thinking of venturing out to see some of the areas firsthand. Not sure though as my friend, Rob, sent me a message this morning about maybe getting out of Bangkok altogether. Maybe a nice beach someplace quiet.

On a parting shot . . .

Here’s one of the red shirt leaders, Arisaman, encouraging people to burn down Bangkok.

Of course, this brave warrior fled when the military came and was caught at Phloen Chit BTS station.

Here’s another red shirt leader, Nattawut, also calling on people to burn the city.

The key thing he says (in Thai) is “If you try to take over, we will burn the entire country. Go ahead let it burn. i will responsible for it”

Both of these speeches were given some time ago. For anyone who bought into the “peaceful protesters” propaganda, they obviously never listened to the hate filled speeches like these. I, on the other hand, heard them 24/7 for nearly six weeks. I can’t say I understood every word but one has to but listen to the anger and hate in the speaker’s voice to get the gist. From time to time my girlfriend would translate when they said something especially hateful or say something that she thought was offensive to her King and it’s pretty obvious why the violence erupted last night.

These people have been subject to constant brainwashing. They’ve been pumped up. They’ve been told how they will burn down the city if the government doesn’t meet their demands. How they will fight to the death.

And then the leaders surrender and tell the people to disperse with absolutely none of their goals accomplished.

You can’t fire (no pun intended) people up like this for weeks and weeks and then just turn it off.

BTW, if you liked the pics in this post, please check out the full gallery at Boston.com. They have some really fantastic photo essays.

Ship It Holla Ballas!

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Bill Rini has been working in the online poker industry since 2004. He was a product manager for poker at Full Tilt and was the poker room manager at PartyPoker. Currently, Bill is the Head of Online Poker for WSOP.

 

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(4) Readers Comments

  1. @Eric: Thanks. I know that a good % of the people who read my site have been here before and come here often on holiday . . . well, because they always email me and ask to meet me when they’re in town :-)

    So I hope what I’m writing helps people who know Bangkok to get a better handle on what’s going on. CNN sucks. BBC sucks. Unless you’re in the middle of it and seeing it day to day it’s hard to get a handle on what is really happening on the street.

  2. Keep your man-on-the-street reports coming – those of us in the USA don’t get nearly enough coverage of this.

  3. Thanks Joe.

  4. Thanks for the update Bill. Glad you’re safe. I’ve enjoyed / appreciated your posts on this. So much so I mentioned you in this thread over on MetaFilter.

    Stay safe!

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