By The Nation
No wonder the wildlife gets so upset about humans encroaching on their territory
Tensions over urban overcrowding came to a small but significant head in Bangkok last week when the boys from Samranrat Police Station began reclaiming the sidewalk from homeowners and shopkeepers who’ve spilled out of their buildings onto the pavements.
Some of the action was caught in pictures and duly uploaded to the social networks, prompting the usual polarised opinions, so the bickering carried on a lot longer than it needed to.
This is what Thais have come to in the 100 years since we moved from the farms to the towns. It’s routine to see insensitive car owners shamelessly parking in spaces reserved for the handicapped. Now it’s not just the handicapped (or the wildlife) demanding their space back. It’s like there’s a growing sense in Bangkok that, if you own property, you’re entitled to commandeer all the adjoining territory too.
Traffic at the Samranrat intersection has become woefully congested in large part because people living and working along the road park their cars out front. And even if they have to leave and go someplace in their cars, they have barricades to “hold” their parking spaces for them. A set of chairs will do the trick.
The police have previously pointed out politely that the traffic lane adjoining the kerb was not part of the deal when they purchased their properties. Rather, it belongs to the public in perpetuity, so please give it back.
One of the photos posted online shows a cop pointing out a sign left on an improvised barricade. Apparently the owner is baffled that people keep trying to remove the blockage. “This is human language,” the sign says, meaning it’s in simple, recognisable Thai. “Please do not remove the barricade. Thank you, kha.” Also very polite, yes, but at the same time oblivious to the inconvenience being caused to thousands of passing motorists.
It emerges that the sign-poster is a woman who probably owns the adjoining shophouse. She’s blocked off a personal parking space, heedless of the din of honking horns in the gridlock all around. And every other property owner on the block has done exactly the same thing.
The cops are seen hauling away plastic chairs, concrete posts and all sort of other items used as barricades and, in a reward of sorts, the pictures of their efforts earned more than 25,000 “shares” on Facebook. “Good job, policemen!” comments one fan. “They have no right to occupy the public roadway and turn it into a personal parking space.”
The reaction wasn’t entirely positive, though. Others saw it as a cheap publicity ploy by a police force that has failed to bring to justice the murderers of a handicapped vendor, supposedly because some of the assailants are sons of cops.
Maybe so, but we still appreciate getting our street lanes back.