Thursday, May 20, 2010

Suffused Panic: curfew in Bangkok - Thailand

Looking at the city center from the top of a skybridge the sky appears divided by a clear-cut line: blue above it and dark gray below. It's the smoke that rises from the burning sites: shopping malls, banks, the Stock Exchange building, tires at the junctions, subway stations. The hard-line of the protest will not bend and surrender, or maybe it was all already planned in advance. Small groups of diehards move around quickly, damaging things and throwing gasoline bombs. Due to the impediments that piled up in two months the firefighter trucks cannot reach the fires. Flames flare up eating chunks of the city: key-spots, landmarks, shops, public service. The government was hard-pressed and imposed a curfew: from 8pm to 6am everybody must stay at home.
At about 5pm, three hours before it starts, I get out of my place and take a walk in the neighborhood. Usually Pahonyothin Rd is as full as a salami skin but today it's as trafficked as a highway in the desert. The supermarkets and the shopping malls are already closing. A convenience store by the filling station is under assault. On the meat-shelf there are two sausages and a few chicken legs: they look like pink rowboats afloat a pale ocean. The queue at the cashier reaches the entrance: I just take two pictures and leave a bit confused. When I reach a 7eleven I take a look and get in. The customers walk with haste down the aisles, when they find an item that they were looking for they often put into their basket the whole stock on display. If I hadn't listened to the news in English the fantasy in my head could be a legitimate doubt: it's a ten-day-curfew, not a ten-hour-one! 
When I'm on my way back the sensation persists. People don't walk, don't search, don't buy: they are insects that swarm, tear apart and drag. It's a collective neurosis, a suffused sort of panic.

Photo: meat-shelf at Tesco Lotus Express, Ratchayothin-Bangkok, by Fabio.
Other pictures taken before the curfew by Fabio here.
Photo of Central World ablaze here. And a video of the fire here.

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