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THAILAND COUP: Forced to stay home at night, with little to watch on TV

Publication Date : 24-05-2014


Midnight on Thursday in downtown Bangkok.

Flashing wide grins and giving a thumbs-up, two cyclists sped down the middle of a broad avenue emptied of cars because of an army-imposed curfew.

A couple of streets away, a lone taxi cruised but could find no fare. Soi Cowboy, a notorious red-light strip catering almost exclusively to foreigners, was already shuttered. The taxi driver, who gave his name only as Somchai, said he would pull over somewhere and sleep in his car.

Across town, the backpacker street Khao San Road, normally crowded and raucous until late at night, was quiet by 10pm. Tourists chose to stay in.

There had been an initial nervousness when the Thai army imposed the overnight curfew from 10pm to 5am. Commuters crammed the BTS Skytrain in a bid to get home early.
Malls closed by 8pm or 9pm. Even Bangkok's ubiquitous 7-Eleven stores that normally operate round the clock were shuttered by 10pm.

Roadside vendors did brisk business serving up steaming hot bowls of noodles and skewers of grilled meat and fish, but packed up well before the curfew started.
After the overnight curfew ended without incident, tensions eased as people adjusted to the new situation.

"It is usually the staff who have a problem because they live a long way off," said Jarrett Wrisley, who runs two popular restaurants, Soul Food in Soi Thonglo, and Appia in Sukhumvit Soi 31.

"The first night, we called our reserved customers and they simply came in a bit earlier," he said yesterday.

"Even on most nights, all our seats are filled around 7:30pm or 8pm," he added.

"Tonight, we've been told the curfew is from 11pm, so we will let our staff go at 10.15," he said.

Otherwise, there is really not that much impact, said Wrisley.

Singaporeans such as Tan Wen Ling are also taking the new political situation in Thailand in their stride.

Tan, a 29-year-old communications professional who moved to Bangkok in February, found her phone flooded with messages from concerned family members and friends on Thursday.

"I told them everything is fine," Tan said.

Life goes on pretty much as normal except for minor inconveniences such as not being able to stay out late, she added.

"It's something new for me... But it's nothing really alarming," she said.

What some people found more annoying has been the stoppage of regular programming on TV.

All shows, including those on foreign channels, now display the military's logos, and play rousing martial and patriotic songs on a continuous loop, interrupted only by occasional announcements from the military regime.

"If the army wants us to stay home, they should have at least let us watch something," mechanic Thanakan Chalaemprasead, 21, complained.

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