Foreigners misunderstand Thailand. A night murder in Bangkok that never happened

Submitted by David Baggins on Fri, 10/04/2019 - 02:55

Once I was a witness to a strange accident in the streets of Bangkok. I was riding a bus at night when I noticed a policeman was kindly asking passersby to refrain from crossing the street along the pedestrian bridge (overpass). I got a guess that something bad like a murder had happened on the bridge... Or was it an alleged bomb?...

I asked Nut what was exactly happening. He answered:

- Nothing so special.

Ok...

Then, the bus brought us to the next traffic light where I saw the same scene: a policeman was guarding a footbridge. This time, I felt uncomfortable - something wrong was happening... I asked Nut again and he said:

- Maybe the Royal family is coming.

Ok... So I concluded that the police were asking people to avoid crossing pedestrian bridges to ensure the security of somebody important traveling by car along this street. And it could be true. Or ...

This was what I read a few months later in a book written by N. Abraham McDonald, an American Christian missionary lived in Siam (Thailand) in the 1860s:

It is also contrary to Siamese custom to have any one pass over their head, and consequently they will not occupy the lower story of a house when persons are above them on the next story. When the King goes out on the canals in his boat, all the bridges have to be drawn, lest his sacred head should pass under where some person had walked.

So it may be that the described Thai tradition is still alive in Thailand at least in relation to the royal family... The police didn't want people to walk or stand over the royal heads...

This is a good example of a true misunderstanding of Thailand by a foreigner, how it happens, and an instance of a poorly helping communication with a local (which is typical for Thailand, I would say).