Two rallies plus two fairs equals gridlock
If the anti-Thaksin rally in front of Siam Paragon didn't totally paralyse city roads, a few more events - a rally of farmers on Silom Road, the Red Cross Fair and the national Book Fair beginning yesterday - helped create traffic chaos.
The anti-Thaksin rally "arrived" at 4pm and entirely blocked traffic on Rama I Road from Pathum Wan Intersection to Rajprasong Intersec-tion.
Police told commuters to use Phetburi Road instead. But the blocked roads had a big effect on many routes in the heart of Bangkok including Sukhumvit, Phetburi, Victory Monument, Rama IV, Sathorn and other nearby roads.
Some 17 public-bus routes that run along Rama I had to divert to other roads. Meanwhile, protesters from a network of indebted farmers obstructed traffic on Silom Road in front of the Bangkok Bank headquarters, causing gridlock from Silom Intersection to Rajprasong.
Roads around the Royal Plaza were also closed because of the Red Cross Fair.
Traffic police tried to improve things via radio stations and electronic boards at several intersections, warning commuters to avoid certain areas or use public transport instead. However, their efforts seemed to help only a little.
Police commanders flew by helicopter to inspect traffic conditions. Traffic Police Commander Maj-General Panu Kerdlappol, however, said the traffic was not as severe as predicted because people had been warned and Siam Centre, Siam Discovery and Siam Paragon were all closed.
Some tutoring schools in Siam Square had also cancelled classes to avoid a traffic log-jam, he said. But things could be worse today if the schools open, he noted.
Several offices in Central World Plaza stopped work at 3pm yesterday so workers could avoid the traf?fic and get home early.
But the protesters had a deeper message for commuters. Mob leader Chamlong Srimuang said: "Two days of traffic jams is a minor matter, but the nation remaining jammed up was a big problem."
Jaitana Sriwangphol, an executive at FM91 traffic radio, said the station received 50,000 phone calls yesterday asking about closed roads and diversion routes. Most said they wanted all demonstrations to end.
Police spokesman Lt-General Ajiravid Subarnbesaj said about 15,000 officers were on duty in front of Siam Paragon shopping centre and coped with the situation easily. None carried weapons.
However, police reportedly took pictures and video footage of the mob and plan to charge protest leaders for violating traffic laws. Some people filed complaints at Pathum Wan police station, accusing the protesters of creating a public nuisance.
Siam Skytrain station was forced to close last night because of the huge crowds there. Passengers had to get off at National Stadium or Chit Lom instead.