Army Tanks in front of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall
(Photograph by Richard Barrow)
It all started as a rumour last night. Just before 10 p.m., I got a telephone call saying I should check out Channel 5. Regular programming had been interrupted and they were showing video clips of H.M. The King. This channel is controlled by the army and so when something like this happens, rumour start to fly that a coup is about to happen. At 10.20 p.m. I posted on ThailandQA.com forum that there were strong rumours of a coup. By that time I already had more phone calls from people. But there was still no news reports either on television or the Internet. After that things started to happen very quickly. Both the online editions of The Nation and the Bangkok Post started posting news about the rumours. Then one by one the other television channels stopped their regular programming until all of them were showing the same video clips of H.M. The King. These kept repeating about every ten minutes.
Apart from the Internet, our only news source at that time was international news programmes such as CNN, BBC and Fox News. It wasn’t long before BBC World was reporting tanks on the streets of Bangkok. This was also reported on CNN and then later Fox News. Information was scarce at that time. The online site for The Nation must have been receiving many hits as their website was very slow and unresponsive as the evening progressed. Some of the best sources of information was from bloggers who lived in Bangkok. They were giving minute by minute reports from what they could see. Every now and then, a spokesperson came on the Thai tv channels and gave a report about the coup. Basically saying the military had taken over and they asked for people to remain calm.
Army tanks on the streets of Bangkok this morning
(Photograph by Richard Barrow)
As the night progressed, we regularly updated the news at ThailandQA.com and our sister site ThaiPhotoBlogs.com. The sites were seeing thousands of hits as many people wanted to know what was going on. Even someone from the BBC contacted us for information. By midnight I was reporting that CNN and BBC World on UBC Cable had now been blocked. However, I had a direct satellite feed for BBC and Fox so I was able to monitor international reaction. Rumours started circulating on the Internet that the mobile phone network was going to be shut down and also the Internet. We were surprised that the Internet wasn’t closed right at the beginning. In the end there was never any interruption though many servers crashed due to huge numbers. We speculated that the coup leaders must all be over 60 years of age and probably never heard of the Internet. For most people in Thailand, the only source of news now was the Internet, both the international news sites and local bloggers.
By about 3 a.m. news started to slow down and I decided to hand over the reporting to a colleague in a different timezone. I knew the next day would be a long day.
I woke up early this morning to find that all the Thai tv channels were still running videos of H.M. The King. Schools had been closed as well as banks and government agencies such as the post office. There had been reports last night of the army taking control of not only the television stations, but also the newspapers. So, I was surprised in the morning to see my copies of Bangkok Post, The Nation and Thai Rath. Outside I could see light traffic on the road but really no indication of what was going on in Bangkok. So, after posting some updates at ThailandQA.com, I decided to drive into Bangkok to see for myself.
To be continued soon…..