"Together We Can": Volunteers clean up Bangkok - 23 May 2010

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The "clean-up" has been in full swing in the city centre today as teams of cleaners from the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority worked side-by-side with thousands of volunteers, armed with an array of mops, brushes, sponges, water and detergents, to scrub the streets that were rendered grimy and be-stickered by the protests as a sense of normality here starts to edge back, today's high profile operation being tagged under the theme of Together We Can. The volunteers, their numbers put at around 5,000 by official sources, were bolstered by an array of celebrities from the local show business scene that dropped by to lend a hand. But its still a nervous city, the rigid curfew is still in place, and the once-busy streets are quiet, while key public transport services that have ground back into action are almost empty. Few people are venturing as far as the city centre yet.Heeding the Together We Can call of the Bangkok Governor, MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra, who isn't prepared to waste a minute in his efforts to get the city back on its feet again and running smoothly, a mammoth task now in hand, thousands of volunteers turned out today from early morning to clean the filthy roads and surroundings across the city centre. Already the tents, utensils and massed paraphernalia of the Reds Shirts has been removed: the tents were dismantled before diggers were sent in to shovel away the strewn out remains of the camp, and now there remains just acres of grime, graffiti, burnt rubber trails, blackened concrete, charred fences and trees, signs and bus stops, red-tinged posters and plenty of stickers to remove, as well as all manner of debris and lots of rotting garbage. There was one tense moment this morning as a bag of homemade bombs was reportedly discovered; it was quickly made safe by the army. This enthusiastic band of cleaners, from neatly-attired students to motorbike taxi drivers clad in their orange jackets, mostly younger people, started the day off at the Rama VI monument on the corner of Lumpini Park and worked their way up towards Ratchaprasong, hundreds and hundreds of cheerful volunteers from all walks of life scrubbing away at the roads, pavements, phone booths, bus shelters, footbridges and and surrounding objects with the assistance of a flotilla of BMA water tankers with their high pressure hoses and its luminous-suited staff. Armed troops meanwhile discreetly stood guard over the clean-up operation, their presence welcoming and reassuring for the volunteers. There was something of a light hearted party atmosphere as they cleaned away the last remnants of the rally which accumulated so much dirt and muck over the month-and-a-half that the UDD and its supporters were camped out in huge numbers the city centre. The people today are cheerful and amply supplied with provisions as they wade through wave after wave of bubbling detergent while diligently cleaning everything in their path. Today is Sunday, tomorrow the city hopes to get back to work. The Governor, always an imposing figure and always ready to be right in the thick of any action, led from the front and he was everywhere today. An array of the city's celebrities also turned out to support the clean up, many wearing instantly in-fashion crisp white T-shirts emblazoned with Together We Can detailed out in the national colours, red and blue. There was actress Doughnut Manasanan, "Shane" from the RS record label signed band Nice to Meet You, actor Tai Nattapol, show host and the owner of Work Point Entertainment, the biggest TV production house in Thailand which turns out many quality shows, as well as being the recipient of several prestigious honours from the Asian Television Awards, Panya Nirunkul. More well known names from the Bangkok entertainment scene to lend a hand during the day and show their support for this initiative included Takonkiat Veerawan, the owner of Exact which produces many popular Thai drama series, record label MD, Teerapat Sajjakul, and several award winning artists from True's Academy Fantasia contest. The signing of the national anthem meanwhile was led by "Pat", Suttasinee Puttinund, the eldest daughter of one of the major shareholders of Grammy Entertainment.

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