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Night venues, so far the only big victims of Thailand military coup

May 26, 2014

The Military Coup can claim a victim: Thailand night life which is currently affected by a strict curfew starting at 10 pm. Otherwise, life goes as usual in the Thai capital and the provinces, rather more peaceful than usual.

“I cannot complaint. We have been selling as much as usual and the market remains busy. Just look around”. Nathalie, a French Native, comes once a month to sell French Southwest specialties at the Bangkok Farmer Market, the first organic food market of the Thai capital. Some 60 to 80 business come once a month during the week end to sell their own organic-grown products or their handicraft. Coincidence of timing, the market met in Bangkok on May 24 and 25, just two days after the military coup. Hundreds of Thai buyers –mostly upper-class- and expats were there all over the week end to enjoy food and gather in a relaxed atmosphere. A ten-minute away drive from the Bangkok Farmers Market, the LUXX Hotel, a four star property between Sukhumvit Road and Lumpini Park hosted the Art Hotel Fair. Two floors of the hotel were converted for 48 hours into a exhibition space for two dozens of art galleries. On Saturday night, young artists and art-fans walked from one bedroom to another, sipping cocktails and posting selfies while a jazz orchestra played in the courtyard until 8:30 pm…

Bangkok first under martial law; and now under a military regime following the country 12th successful army coup. A city which looks normal with people filling up shopping malls, usual traffic jams and visitors strolling around the city’s famed monuments and attractions. Most of the Thais seem relieved that the army finally stepped in to control a political conflict situation which threatened to drag the country into chaos and more violence. The military presence is so far discreet: some checkpoints have been set up to control vehicles along main roads and highways. In the district of Dusit, where most government’s offices and state institutions are located, the army shows its muscles, controlling people. Coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha is now consolidating his power by concentrating all decisions into his hands.

The coup has been rather bloodless with no violence being reported so far, in contrary to the idea of many Westerners that a coup can only be a kind of “Pinochet-style” act. Meanwhile, it has also consequences at a political level. Some hundred people have been detained, including prominent politicians but also academics and one senior journalist. Censorship is now in place, banning international tv channels while some forums on the net have been shut down –such as the one from the Bangkok Post, officially suspended “due to massive web traffic and to ensure overall smooth web surfing experience”. Some demonstrations attended by a few hundreds protesting against the coup have been organized and dispersed by the police and the army without any casualties.

The army already promised that the arrests and the country’s control by the military will only be temporary until the restoration of peace is completed. The only question now is “how long will it take?”

There is however one big victim of the current coup. The enforced curfew, in place from 10 pm to 5 am, has killed nightlife all across the kingdom. It jeopardizes the living of hundreds of employees at restaurants, bars, clubs, but also at night food stalls or at night markets who make their income from night activities. Most shops and restaurants are now forced to close between 8 pm and 9 pm, to allow their employee to rush home before the official start of the curfew.

For the tourists being present for now in Thailand, it is a rather inconvenient than insurmountable problem. Most tourists are now forced to end up their evening early and go back to their hotels. Some tourism business already adapted to the new conditions: Siam Niramit shows start now early around 6 pm to end up around 8:30 pm. Hotels have shown their creative skills by organizing special events around swimming pools or in their clubs. “As long as it does not last for too long”, says a hotel general manager.

Tourism professionals are now worried about the negative image that the coup and the curfew give to Thailand. If it remains limited in time – let say a week or two- most professionals predict a quick recovery once political tensions ease and life comes back to normal. Some already asked a relaxation of the curfew in tourist areas such as Silom or Khao San roads. It will probably be gradually implemented from this week. Too much business and money are effectively at stake…

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