Backpackers outside, protesters inside: Bangkok hostels offer a secret refuge


BANGKOK (Reuters) – As thousands of Thai protesters try to maintain months of anti-establishment rallies, dozens of hostels across Bangkok have opened to provide refuge for tired protesters, sometimes for free.

Since mid-July, protesters led by young Thais and students, often organized online, have defied the crackdown to continue calling on Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to step down and challenge a long-standing taboo by demanding a reform of the monarchy.

With protesters sometimes facing water cannons and playing cat and mouse with police in stifling conditions until late into the evening, many sleep rough.

“I felt bad for those who had no place to stay,” said a 23-year-old medical student, who declined to give her name over fears of being targeted by authorities.

She offered free rooms online to protesters, she said.

A Twitter account, Mobmeeteenon (“protesters have places to sleep”), is helping link protesters to rooms after the government issued an emergency executive order this month and cracked down on people camping outside government houses.

Another 25-year-old volunteer, who also helped organize accommodations, said around 500 people had been accommodated since efforts to provide rooms began.

In addition to a bed, protesters receive three meals a day and transportation to get to the protests.

There is plenty of space in hotels and hostels in the generally bustling Bangkok, which has been virtually empty of foreign tourists since authorities closed Thailand’s borders to most commercial flights in April to contain the coronavirus. .

A protester in Chonburi province, east of Bangkok, was surprised to be offered a bed when he thought he was sleeping on the streets after a recent rally.

“There are four people sleeping in this room. This is my place, ”said the 27-year-old, speaking from a hostel in central Bangkok.

The government tried to defuse tensions on Thursday, overturning an emergency decree that banned political gatherings of five or more people and the publication of information that could affect security.

Reporting by Jiraporn Kuhakan; Written by Ed Davies; Editing by Tom Hogue


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