Bangkok creeps back to life after Thai-style coup

Bangkok creeps back to life after Thai-style coup
Thai anti-government protesters leave their main camp outside Government House in Bangkok a day after Thai military seized power.

BANGKOK - An uneasy calm settled over Bangkok Friday, with tourists venturing onto the streets and shoppers filling the malls as one of the world's most vibrant cities absorbed the effects of a very Thai coup.

Traffic was thin on the normally gridlocked streets, but many people returned to work and the streets were lined with the usual array of sizzling food stalls following a military-imposed overnight curfew, which was expected to come into effect again Friday evening.

In contrast to the last coup in 2006, there were no tanks on the streets and only a limited deployment of soldiers at key buildings.

Holidaymakers milled along the streets of the tourist hub in their dozens, making the most of Bangkok's daytime attractions after Thursday's 10:00 pm (1500 GMT) curfew curtailed their ability to enjoy the city's famed nightlife.

"We went to Khao San (Bangkok's backpacker haven) last night thinking it would be in full swing. Our night was cut a bit short but it was still good," said Scottish tourist Angela, 24, who gave only her first name.

She said she was leaving on Saturday, but told AFP that she "didn't feel alarmed".

Troops stood guard outside the Ministry of Defence, but the mood was calm, with a sound system playing the jazz classic "What a Wonderful World" and a soldier posing for a picture with a passing cyclist.

The coup's direct impact has been felt by senior politicians who were ordered to report to the military. But for the public at large, the curfew was met with a very Thai dose of humour and stoicism in a city whose recent history has been pock-marked by political unrest.

'Nothing on TV'

For Thanakan Chalaemprasead the most distressing aspects of the coup so far are the loss of his favourite television shows - after the army ordered the suspension of normal programming - and the early closure of the city's ubiquitous 7/11 stores.

"I was hungry... but I only had instant noodles at home," the 21-year-old mechanic said.

"There was also nothing on television... if the army wants us to stay home, they should have at least let us watch something." Instead, televisions and radios blared patriotic music punctuated by statements from a stern-faced military spokesman.

The television outage has also posed a challenge for parents, after schools were shuttered on military orders and restless children were denied their cartoon fix.

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