Bangkok residents sweep away remnants of riots

By Michael Perry

BANGKOK (BestGrowthStock) – Thousands of Bangkok residents, angered by the riots that devastated their city, used razor knives on Sunday to scratch off anti-government posters and brooms to sweep away tonnes of rubbish left by protesters.

The army ended months of street rallies by “red shirt” protesters on Wednesday, using armored personnel carriers and automatic rifle fire to evict them from the large parts of downtown Bangkok they had occupied.

A wave of arson and rioting, the worst in the country’s modern history, broke out as the red shirts withdrew.

“I think the red shirts are not Thai people because they destroyed things, they destroyed Bangkok, they destroyed Thailand,” said dress shop owner Kasana Opasthanakoon, as he inspected the destruction in Bangkok’s commercial center.

“My friends have shops here, destroyed, they have nothing.”

The red shirts, drawn from rural masses and the urban poor, are demanding new elections, saying they have been disenfranchised by a Bangkok elite backed by the military that is unwilling to share power with the common people.

They have said they will resume protests next month.

At the charred protest site in Bangkok’s Rachaprasong district which the red shirts had occupied, thousands of Bangkok residents armed with straw brooms, plastic gloves, garbage bags and face masks, poured in after the army declared it clear of home-made bombs and other dangerous material.

“We love Thailand, we love Bangkok. We will try and take back our city today,” said teacher Tor as she led a group of students.

Teenage girls from one of the city’s most prestigious schools marched into the once-deadly no man’s land, carrying a sign “Students Lets Clean Project,” decorated with pink hearts.

“It’s very upsetting, it was a nightmare in Bangkok,” said one of the students from Triam Udom Suksa school.

“I am sad but we will bring it back to life.”

Nearby, other young Thais painstakingly scratched away a “red shirt” poster depicting Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

At least 54 people have been killed and over 400 injured in the violence since May 14. Almost 40 major buildings in the city were set on fire and the tourism and retail industries have been devastated.

DESTRUCTION SHOCKS CITY

Convoys of garbage trucks lined the streets, as the city’s garbage cleaners, mostly women, covered their faces with cloth to reduce the stench as they swept up tonnes of refuge left behind by the protesters, drawn from rural masses and the urban poor.

Powerful fire hoses flushed the rubble away and electrical floor cleaners scrubbed the entrances to luxury stores to remove the black stains left from burning tire barricades.

But while the big luxury stores may reopen soon, many small shopkeepers returned to their stores on Sunday to find blackened, burned-out shells, which may have to be demolished.

The best these shop owners could do was salvage anything that survived the fires and stack it in the back of small trucks.

The destruction has stunned this city.

As people cleaned the streets, they also took photographs and video of the damage, especially of the gutted Central World, the second largest shopping mall in Southeast Asia.

“I think many residents will be shocked, it’s different when it’s in reality than on television,” said schoolteacher Ian Oirbanf, a Dutch national who has lived in Thailand for 20 years.

“Maybe tomorrow the garbage will be gone, but the devastation will still be there,” he said, and then rode off through the rubble on his bicycle to take more photos of the damage.

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(Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Bangkok residents sweep away remnants of riots