BANGKOK — In a city overrun with smog and litter along uneven sidewalks, one Lat Phrao area man may have discovered the secret to cleaning up trash-filled streets.
In a Facebook post that has gone viral since Sunday, Methus Kaewsaikao said that placing red Fanta, flowers and a small doll at a fire hydrant in Bangkok’s Soi Lat Phrao 62 to create a makeshift shrine had deterred people from littering there – albeit temporarily.
“I started an anti-trash campaign to fight trash with superstition, to worship this red pillar,” Methus wrote.
“I got the idea from seeing signs with curses on them, like if you throw trash or pee here, then so-and-so will happen to you,” the 28-year-old said in a Monday phone interview. “I walk past this pile of trash every day, so I wanted to try it out.”
While grabbing a coke, Methus saw a Fanta and decided to place the bottle – often given as a spiritual offering at shrines – at the site instead of a sign.
The first time he tried his experiment, cleaners collected the red Fanta bottle with the rest of the trash by fire hydrant.
He knew he had to step up his game.
“I updated the latest version of offering. I put out a doll with yellow flowers and promptly told the garbage collector not to take them (I was putting them out at 5am),” he wrote.
The area was clear of trash throughout the next day, but Methus said he wasn’t quick to claim victory and was still on the watch.
“When I win, I’ll raise funds and put flowers, incense and trash cans for all the sois around here,” he wrote.
By Monday, the post had been liked more than 22,000 times and shared more than 7,000 times. Netizens applauded his idea, with some offering tips on how to embellish the shrine.
“Add some zebra figurines,” Arunee Kaikookoo Tirasriwat wrote, referring to the dolls placed near shrines at busy roads to offer luck to pedestrians walking on zebra crossings. “All the trash will be gone for sure, but then the zebras will multiply into a whole flock.
But Methus said Monday that the shrine was gone and the trash was back.
“I wonder if my neighbors hate me,” he said laughing.
However, he said he would commit to making shrines until the area is clean, and hopes more people will create shrines all over Bangkok.
“I will keep trying, both here and elsewhere. I would be so happy if a lot of people did this until the area is clean. No one will be able to tell between real and fake shrines.”
Measures to combat littering around Bangkok have often failed, such as the green trash cages introduced in May. Many Thais offer Fanta to local spirits at shrines, but also at many statues – whether it’s of the giant at Suvarnabhumi Airport or a statue of Gandhi at a university.