BANGKOK – The 88th birthday of His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej was celebrated nationwide this week, culminating in a planned massive, city-wide paralysis of the capital of Bangkok to take place this Friday.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha has declared the event, which is expected to make movement within the city impossible, a demonstration of unity among the Thai people.
“Our beloved king is the moral and spiritual leader of the nation,” Prayuth said. “We can think of no better way to celebrate his life than to follow his example, by disabling the city’s transportation with a crippling, disruptive, yet totally symbolic event like Bike For Dad.”
The highly anticipated Bike For Dad event, which will involve over 30,000 police officers and armed forces personnel and 100,000 cyclists, will begin at 3pm at the Royal Plaza and travel through many of Bangkok’s most high-traffic areas, including Ratchaprasong, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok’s Chinatown, or Yaowarat, Wong Wian Yai, and the Democracy Monument, before returning to the Royal Plaza. During this time, all major roads will be closed to vehicles.
In addition to the actual event, the roads on the cycling route will be shut down several times in the days leading up to the event, to rehearse the proper execution of a total, city-wide traffic seizure.
Despite the expectation of a complete shutdown of city surface traffic, the government has decided not to declare Friday a national holiday, forcing people to go to work to better emphasize the kinship between the king and his adoring subjects.
“His Majesty has always worked hard for the Thai people, and never taken a holiday himself,” said Deputy Prime Minister General Tanasak Patimapragorn, who inspected the event route last week.
“It is only appropriate that we also spend the day working, or at least trying hopelessly to get to work, unable to move for hours.”
His Majesty the King has been recuperating from various medical ailments since 2012 at Siriraj Hospital, and is confined to a wheelchair during his excursions. His inability to move under his own power has become a great concern for many Thai people, who are only too eager to experience their own paralysis out of devotion.
“I will probably spend all of Friday in my car trying to go southbound past Victory Monument,” said Sripak Veerapung, an office executive who lives in Rangsit but works on Phanayothin Road. “But for every second of it, I’ll be thinking of my beloved King and his own inability to move.”
Even many commuters who normally take the BTS or MRT trains to work have vowed to participate in Friday’s immobility.
“The idea of moving forward, even one step, while our father cannot, is too much to bear,” said Pamplonak Avasanant, a sales manager who works at Terminal 21. She and two of her colleagues plan to participate in Bike For Dad by hiring a taxi and getting stuck on inbound Sukhumvit road from 4pm to 8pm.
“Even if I have to pay 1000 baht, and burn an entire tank of gas to get nowhere, I think it’s the right way to honor His Majesty,” she added.
Although Friday’s celebratory paralysis will be by far the largest in Bangkok, smaller cities in the provinces will also organize their own congestion-enhancement events. Additionally, almost 10,000 Thais abroad in almost 70 countries have signed up to participate remotely, pledging to cause as much traffic problems as possible in their foreign cities of residence.
Among them is Rajaneet “Ray” Boronmanee, an expatriate Thai living in Los Angeles, who plans to gather several of of biking friends to randomly obstruct traffic on Sunset Boulevard on Friday, while wearing a “Bike For Dad” shirt.
“I’m sure I’ll get a lot of honking from American motorists who can’t see the importance of what I’m doing,” he said.
“But I don’t expect them to understand,” he continued. “You see, the simple idea of not going anywhere, not doing anything, being completely frozen in place. I think only a Thai person can see the value in that.”
“Long live the king,” he added.