Renewed anti-government protests again are dividing Thais from Government House to the local coffee house, with one Bang Saen Beach barista thrusting herself into the conflict between right-wing royalists and progressive student activists.
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Thananit Putsaranroj, owner of Coffee Is just off the beach in Saen Suk Subdistrict, recently told a group of students jawing over java about politics to leave her restaurant after they began criticizing the monarchy.
The young activists responded by slamming her and Coffee Is on social media. That, in turn, sparked a counter rally of online support from royalists.
The 41-year-old coffee maker said she had never tossed anyone out of her shop before and didn’t like doing it this time, but she loves and respects the monarchy and doesn’t want anyone to disparage the institution.
Thananit said Oct. 21 that she told the group that she was happy to have customers with all different views, but she didn’t want her business to become a place for youthful activists to assemble. Thailand is becoming so polarized that she could lose customers if her place became known as a rally point for pro-democracy students.
She, however, seemed less concerned about losing liberal customers by taking the side of monarchy defenders. And, so far, it hasn’t hurt. She said that since the online uproar she’s gained a lot of support and business from like thinkers who support the current monarchy system.
Thananit is not the only Bang Saen business to end up in the middle of the political fight. A cookie shop called Ban ๙ Bakery – ๙ being the Thai numeral nine and a symbol for HM the late King Rama IX – was boycotted by pro-democracy snack lovers. But, again, new pro-monarchy customers came to the rescue, keeping the bakery in business.