Thailand's Road to Democracy
Pinklao Ferry Pier
If you’ve made it to Pinklao pier, I want to congratulate you – I’ve been living and working in Bangkok for more than 20 years, but I still occasionally jump on the wrong boat and watch hopelessly as we go motoring past my destination. Still, there aren’t many better cities to miss your boat stop. This is a river city, and there is always something happening on the Chao Phraya. To really understand Bangkok, though, you sometimes need to stray from the waterside temples, hotels and markets. And that’s our plan today – a stroll through Thailand’s recent political history. Our target: Democracy Monument.
I’m Chris. I took my first job at a local newspaper here in the late 1980s, and I’ve been watching the way Thais play politics with fascination ever since. With the constant changes in government, shifting political allegiances, military interventions, popular uprisings and so on it can get pretty confusing. Hopefully by the end of this 30-minute walk you will find it a little less so – or at least have some historical context to better understand Thailand’s recent troubles.
The architecture of the Phra Pinklao Bridge, above us, isn’t exciting. There are no soaring towers, no dramatic arches, no brilliant color schemes, no historic charm. It’s just a stretch of highway slapped across the river, but as an entry point to understanding Thailand’s modern political history, it’s just about perfect.
So, let’s start. As you leave the pier you’ll see a stairwell on your left. Don’t take it: go around to other side of the concrete column – I think it’s technically known as a bridge abutment – where you’ll find a similar set of stairs. Go up those, and we’ll be on the right-hand side of the road as we cross the river.