Residents adapt to Bangkok 'shutdown'

The anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) came close to "shutting down" Bangkok, but the Thai capital's more than 10 million residents soon adapted.

On Monday, attendance in the business district plunged as much as 80 per cent, according to some reports. But when there was no violence and it looked like the protests would last, attendance bounced back.

The PDRC has made it a point to limit inconvenience to the urban middle class - the backbone of its support. It also wants supporters to be able to get to their rallies.

Before the "shutdown" plan, for example, some businesses complained.

They were notably companies which operate minivans and buses that congregate at Victory Monument, a major commuter hub and since Monday, the site of one of the PDRC's seven rallies. But PDRC leaders reached a compromise that allowed access by keeping some lanes open.

The Skytrain and underground train lines have functioned without interruption, offering direct access to many public buildings. They are packed with commuters while those outside protest areas continued to commute in cars and rejoice at the reduced road traffic.

The Thai Chamber of Commerce estimates the economic cost of the protests is 700 million baht (S$27.2 million) a day, but daily economic activity was estimated in 2010 by the National Economic and Social Development Board at about 10 billion baht.

"My earnings are down from 1,000 baht a day to 500. That's because most people are taking the trains," says Mr Samniang Charoenjai, 39, who has been driving his own taxi for four years.

"I have no shirt colour," he jokes, referring to Thailand's colour-coded political groups. "But soon I may not have a shirt at all."

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