LOPBURI: Locals seemed to understand the cause of the outbreak in the precincts of the city and even recognised the leaders or monarchs of both monkey kingdoms as they engaged in battle on Wednesday. All agreed that the scenes were unprecedented.

Two rival monkey kingdoms went to war and fought a battle over a 10 minute period on the streets of Lopburi on Wednesday in scenes that one 75 year old local described as unprecedented. He also considered it an ill omen for Thailand linked with the current, spiralling coronavirus outbreak.

Dramatic scenes in Lopburi on Wednesday were filmed by local paint salesman Sasaluk Rattanachai. On Thursday, locals and officials helped ease the situation by leaving food offerings for both groups of warring monkeys.

As the world battles against the coronavirus under straitened circumstances against what is still an unknown quantity, another war broke out on Wednesday in Thailand.

This time it was on the streets of Lopburi as temple monkeys, long considered to be the pampered elite of the simian world in the city because of generous food gifts and titbits left to them by a steady stream of tourists at the local temple, were forced to take drastic action.

They invaded the city centre territory of their rivals in search of food.

Lopburi is to the north of Bangkok and has a population of over 750,000 people with an ancient history and heritage including Phra Prang Sam Yod, the home of the temple monkeys.

Tourism in the city, an economic mainstay and source of the traffic to the temple has all but dried up in recent weeks because of the coronavirus emergency.

Lopburi’s monkey kingdoms go to war

The background to the story is Lopburi’s distinct monkey kingdoms between one group of monkeys whose allegiance is to the city tribe and the other, the temple tribe. Both groups have their leadership and the lines are drawn.

Locals in Lopburi report that the temple monkeys control the territory around the famous temple, their seat and thriving source of food and other wealth that can be gleaned from tourists.

Traffic in the city was stopped for 10 minutes from 11 am on Wednesday by an uncontrolled monkey battle

However, on Wednesday at about 11 am, the tensions boiled over as the temple monkeys from Phra Prang Sam Yod launched an all-out invasion of their rival’s territory. 

The battle and noisy brawl between the monkeys was recorded on video by Lopburi local Sasaluk Rattanachai whose online video has gone viral worldwide. 

His recording of the encounter has been viewed half a million times in a very short period.

Mr Sasaluk is a paint salesman who reported that normally at this time of year, Lopburi is extremely busy with tourists. This year, the ancient city centre is deserted.

‘It’s the summer so usually, we see a lot of tourists, but now because of the outbreak, there’s so few that the markets are very quiet. Not enough tourists come to leave food for the monkeys at Prang Sam Yod,’ he explained.

Mr Sasaluk revealed that the situation at the height of the battle on Wednesday stopped traffic in the city for 10 minutes as the monkeys fought a pitched battle. 

Kingdom of the city monkeys was attacked by their temple rivals says a railway official

One local, 52-year-old Pattakorn Witchaplakorn, a railway officer with the State Railway of Thailand who is responsible for taking care of a water trough for the city’s monkeys, explained the nub of the problem: ‘This area is the kingdom of the city monkeys.’

65-year-old Byo Um-in added to our understanding of what had happened on Wednesday: ‘I haven’t seen a fight like this for many years that I can’t remember. Normally, the fights involve five to ten monkeys’

Motorcycle taxi identified the king of the temple monkeys leading his followers into savage battle

A taxi motorcyclist who knows the area well said he recognised the king of the temple monkeys on Wednesday leading his army into the rival territory of the city rivals. Their objective was a local market where they were in search of food.

The intrusion brought a vicious response from the city monkeys who, led by their leader, managed to force the invaders back into their own territory.

Most dramatic monkey confrontation in Lopburi’s living history say all city locals interviewed

Many locals in the area understood what was going on and were very familiar with the simian politics of Lopburi although all agreed that this was the most dramatic incident they had witnessed.

One 75-year-old man, Somchai Unakong, said he had not observed anything like this in his long life living in Lopburi.

He considered it a singular bad omen for Thailand and suggested also that it was a warning about the Covid 19 coronavirus outbreak.

Locals help make peace with food offerings

Following the battle, some locals and foreigners went to see if some of the monkeys had been injured in the vicious clash. 

On Thursday, monkeys were seen foraging for food throughout the city prompting kind-hearted locals to lay out food for them within both territories so that peace between the monkey kingdoms could be restored.

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Further reading:

Russian tourist is bitten on Phuket’s Monkey Hill prompting a review by police of security for visitors

20 monkeys poisoned in Rayong with more reports of monkey attacks on visitors as populations increase

Thai government acts to deal with a coconut crisis as price of the crop has plunged sharply