Lopburi, a once-prosperous Thai city, now battles a primate onslaught, with locals caging themselves against aggressive monkeys. Once-thriving areas are ghost towns as financial donations and political support fuel the monkeys’ reign.

A once prosperous Thai municipality not far from Thailand’s capital Bangkok is living through a crisis as the city, the provincial capital of Lopburi province by the same name finds itself overtaken by a growing population of monkeys. Locals are increasingly living in fear and within steel cage-like fabrications to protect their quality of life and business concerns as once thriving areas of the city are morphing into ghost towns as the monkeys become more aggressive and domineering while being supported with financial donations and political protection from people outside Lopburi.

Some photos from a field trip this week by national Thai TV included interviews with local business owners, including Uncle Atthaphon Phaengphan, a motorcycle taxi driver (centre) who told them that a local shopping centre had to close because the monkeys had taken over its precincts.

Lopburi, a tranquil city nestled 150 kilometres northeast of Bangkok, has become the unlikely battleground for a fierce conflict between its human residents and a surging population of highly intelligent monkeys.

Over the past eight years, the primates, once perceived as a charming aspect of the city, have transformed into a menacing force, causing mayhem and havoc.

With a modest population of 58,000, Lopburi now faces an escalating crisis, as monkeys not only multiply but also exhibit increasingly aggressive behaviour.

The conflict has reached a point where businesses are shutting down, and residents feel like they are living in cages to protect themselves from the marauding monkeys.

The problem for locals is that the monkeys are also a key tourist attraction for Lopburi and Thailand itself with tens of thousands visiting the city each month to meet them at Phra Prang Sam Yot Temple, a favourite for millions of foreigners worldwide.

Government agencies’ promises to tackle the monkey problem are not being kept as the frustrations of local people grow and livelihoods are being lost

A recent incident saw a shopping centre closing its doors, marking a significant blow to the local economy. Frustrated locals have resorted to installing steel cages, creating an ironic reversal where humans find themselves enclosed while the monkeys reign unchecked.

Despite long-standing pleas for assistance from government agencies, the promised aid has never materialised, leaving the residents of Lopburi to fend for themselves.

The lack of political will and public sentiment sympathetic to the monkeys have compounded the issue, destroying the community fabric in the heart of Lopburi.

Once vibrant central economic areas of Lopburi now lie abandoned and dilapidated, taken over by the primate population.

Businesses have shuttered, and the city’s prosperity is being challenged.

The monkeys have turned the once-bustling commercial areas into desolate spaces, leading to a cascading effect on trade and local livelihoods.

Walking through a shabby city, a reporter’s encounter with the growing monkey menace in the affected areas of Lopburi where the monkeys rule

As reporters traversed the city, they encountered firsthand the impact of the monkey crisis.

The news team cautiously navigated through key monkey-dominated areas that were once thriving business districts but now stood deserted.

Describing the scenes of abandoned buildings and structures, the reporters painted a vivid picture of a city area in decline.

Uncle Atthaphon Phaengphan, a motorcycle taxi driver, lamented the closure of a local shopping centre due to incessant monkey trouble.

He spoke of how the monkeys, driven by aggression and an insatiable curiosity, had led to the closure of businesses. The monkeys’ antics, including snatching items from people’s hands, have created chaos, causing stores to close one after another.

‘In the past, this place was prosperous. Many people came to use the service. The problem at hand is about monkeys. Sometimes I walk in and buy something. It’s not time to return yet. The monkeys come and snatch things from your hand,’ he told local reporters from Bangkok this week on a field trip for a national TV station.

Former student who lived in the city from 2015 to 2017 was shocked at how things had deteriorated for residents living there now, in just six years

He said it was impossible for a person to feel safe in areas where they are rampant as it is quite possible at any moment one will land on your head.

One of the reporters had studied in Lopburi as a student from 2015 to 2017 and was astonished by the change in the city, finding it reduced to a city under siege.

The local man criticised people from outside the city who send money to support the monkeys and the political influence they appear to enjoy while the city struggles with a deepening crisis.

The popularity of the monkeys has been attributed to viral social media clips which are amusing to millions of viewers not only in Thailand but across the world in foreign countries where the monkeys in Thailand have become a well-supported cause espoused by conservationists.

Monkeys long passed the point where they are amusing and a minor nuisance as they encroach on more localities in Lopburi, creating ghost-town areas

‘They’re causing all sorts of problems, biting each other every day, and the shops are closing in droves,’ he lamented. ‘People who don’t live in Lopburi and send money to donate. They say they want to preserve the monkeys, the poor monkeys, that is, the people who did not live in the area. But we are in trouble. Now it’s all a crisis.’

Rival monkey kingdoms fought a pitched battle in the Thai city of Lopburi on Wednesday morning

The monkey invasion has extended to areas where they were never seen before, spreading thinly across the city.

Streets that were once bustling with activity have now become desolate, with shops closing down due to the persistent monkey troubles.

Uncle Kiattisak, a government lottery merchant, expressed his concern that if the issue isn’t addressed promptly, Lopburi risks turning into a ghost town.

While sympathising with the monkeys, locals understand the difficulties faced by their community. The hope is for a resolution that improves the quality of life for both humans and primates.

Balance between care for monkeys and people

The problem for the government and provincial agencies is how to balance the care of the monkeys and the preservation of the city’s authentically popular tourist attraction while giving back locals a proper quality of life. 

Chayowanich Shop, a small business concern located across from Phra Prang Sam Yot Temple, the longstanding home and fortress of the Lopburi monkey population.

The concern is known locally to be supportive of the monkey population, but even it has been forced, in recent times to take measures to protect its business with steel cages to protect its stock while maintaining compassion for the monkeys.

The view is prevalent in Lopburi’s human community conscious of the key role the monkeys play in attracting foreign tourism to the ancient city in addition to their long-standing relationship with the primates

The Lopburi Monkey Epic, as it is now referred to locally by an increasingly subjugated populace, remains an unresolved saga, leaving villagers living metaphorically in cages and yearning for a day when their lives will be free from the turmoil caused by the primate population.

The question that lingers is how and when this epic struggle will find its conclusion.

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Rival monkey kingdoms fought a pitched battle in the Thai city of Lopburi on Wednesday morning

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