Simon Roughneen: Bustling Bangkok brought to a standstill by days of protests

AT THE best of times, rush-hour traffic in Bangkok is a hectic, crawl through 35C heat. When part of the city's commercial heart is occupied by thousands of protesters, or blocked by soldiers, getting around becomes even more awkward.

As the name suggests, the Skytrain runs above the streets: an air-conditioned, Singapore-clean metro on stilts. This week, Red Shirts left tyres on the track of the station nearest the stage where leaders give incessant speeches.

I was among the early-morning throng, where frustrated Bangkokians were forced to walk or jump on the back of a motorbike taxi to get to work. "I don't care about politics", huffed Kanokporn, 28, a bank teller, "but I think this problem needs to be resolved".

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Since last Thursday, when five grenades exploded in the Silom district, the Thai government has slammed the Red Shirts as terrorists. The edgy vibe has been compounded by government allegations that the protest is really a plot to undermine the monarchy.

Across the road from the Red Shirt area, Silom has been desolate the past few nights, apart from a handful of government supporters gathering to vent their anger at the Reds. Soldiers run security checks on the occasional car passing along what usually is a scene of excess, near one of the red-light areas, now patrolled by soldiers who look like they should be at school.

Meanwhile, behind the 15ft-high bamboo and tyre wall built by the Reds to prevent an army attack, one young man leans on a sharpened bamboo stick – perhaps a feeble weapon against Thailand's United States-trained military.

Just 23, he gave his name only as Srijoj. He said "I am not afraid if they come".