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State of emergency: What life is really like in Bangkok

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Uploaded on Apr 8, 2010

Bangkok is under a government imposed state of emergency after red-clad protesters stormed the parliament compound on Wednesday, forcing some lawmakers to flee via helicopter. It was the latest -- and most provocative -- move by the anti-government demonstrators, who are trying to force Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament and force elections.
The state of emergency is designed to give the army enforced powers to disperse the protesters. But it's unclear when that will happen.
The protests have been going on in Bangkok for more than three weeks, and many may be considering leaving the country or cancelling their trips here. Here's a view of the reality on the ground: Without making light of the situation, so far there has been nothing to suggest the protests are putting anyone in any danger. But remember that despite having been peaceful until now, these things can always turn chaotic. Often without any warning.
In much of Bangkok, the protests haven't changed daily life
The portions of the Thai capital that the protesters have seized are small given the size of this enormous city.
The original protest site, close to the Chao Phraya river along Rajadamnoen Road, isn't a place tourists are likely to visit, although it's within walking distance of the Khao San Road backpacker district.
The airport is still open, and protesters haven't said they'll occupy it, as their yellow-shirted political opponents did in November 2008. Taxis are still readily available, and all but a few major roads are still accessible.
However...
The second major rallying point, the Rajaprasong intersection, is smack dab in the middle of Bangkok's hotel and shopping district
This is where you'll find five-star establishments like the Four Seasons, the InterContinental, and the Grand Hyatt Erawan. And in a city known for its shopping, the area's CentralWorld, Central Chidlom, and Siam Paragon malls are among Bangkok's most upscale and popular. The hotels are still open, though some have erected small barriers to keep red shirts out.
While this area is shut down for blocks in either direction, the BTS Skytrain stations that run above it -- Chidlom and Siam -- are still functioning. (Just be prepared to share the car with wide-eyed tourists, enthusiastic red shirt demonstrators, and perhaps a few annoyed local people.)
The protest area here should be approached with caution, as the situation is fluid, but you'll find an interesting clash of cultures if you choose to check it out. The protesters, many of whom are working class people from the north and northeast of the country, have set up a stage and tents, and have been blaring pop and folks songs. Police clad in riot gear -- many of whom are sympathetic to the red shirts -- look on passively.
Vendors are selling dried squid in front of the famous Erawan shrine; women are selling peanuts in plastic bags from stalls set up in front of Louis Vuitton billboards; and other vendors are selling red shirts bearing political slogans like "Truth Today" in front of Coach shops.

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