It was like a clean-up after the mother of all parties — jaded protesters walking zombie-like through the rubble and ruins of their three-month occupation of Thailand’s seat of government.
Yesterday, a little over 12 hours after the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) pulled out of Government House, citing security fears, a crane was already removing some of the buses — wheel-less and plastered with obscenities — blocking roads.
Even when municipal workmen get inside, it will take weeks to restore any sort of normality to the once ornate compound and the rococo prime minister’s office building sitting at its center.
Cargo nets were slung from trees and street lamps to catch the grenades that have been falling almost nightly.
Bunkers of sandbags and car tires stacked 2m high were everywhere, beside lines of makeshift tarpaulin tents.
The carefully manicured lawns and gardens were invisible beneath a sea of wooden pallets and cardboard sleeping mats.
The nauseating stench of overflowing toilets hung in the air as a dozen soldiers with metal detectors swept an adjacent road for explosives in preparation for a royal Trooping the Color ceremony in the afternoon.
While some hungover protesters scavenged through the piles of abandoned food, clothing, water bottles and medical supplies, others packed up their belongings to move to the PAD’s main protest site at Bangkok’s US$4 billion Suvarnabhumi airport.
“The war is not between Thai people. The war is between good and evil,” said 27-year-old TV actress Karnchanit Summakul, dressed in combat fatigues and hacking down a tarpaulin sheet with a box-cutter.
PROTECTING THE KING
As with many PAD supporters, she portrayed the PAD campaign as a crusade to protect King Bhumibol Adulyadej from an alleged plot by ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra to turn the country into a republic.
“I am fighting for the king, protecting the king and protecting Thailand,” she said.
Around her, other departing PAD supporters surveyed the mess they were leaving behind with no hint of remorse or regret.
“I feel very proud and am very glad to have done all this,” said Tae Saekuay, a toothless and hunchbacked 67-year-old as he waddled through the barricades carrying a small plastic sack of clothes and bedding.
“We need a new, clean government. We don’t want corruption,” he said.
Meanwhile, a Dutchman and two Canadian tourists have been killed in two separate car crashes while trying to escape Thailand amid a blockade of Bangkok’s airports, police said yesterday.
Police in southern Chumphon Province said the Dutchman was killed on Sunday while traveling in a hired taxi from Bangkok to Malaysia.
He was the third tourist killed trying to leave the kingdom since Bangkok’s airports were closed last week by anti-government protesters.
Earlier yesterday police said two Canadian tourists were killed and a Briton seriously injured in another car crash early on Monday morning as they rushed to catch a flight out from Phuket.
The Canadian men — one aged 63 and a 48-year-old man who also held Hong Kong citizenship — were killed in southern Surat Thani Province, as they headed to Phuket international airport.
A British woman was also injured in the collision.
The man with dual nationality was the same as a Hong Kong man, who was erroneously earlier reported killed in a separate crash, police said.