The fearless primates’ antics were largely tolerated as a major lure for the tourist hordes who descended on the city before the coronavirus outbreak to feed and snap selfies with the plucky animals.
But a government sterilisation campaign is now being waged against the creatures after the epidemic provoked an unexpected change in their behaviour. As foreign tourism – Thailand’s cash cow – seized up so did the flow of free bananas tossed their way, prodding the macaques to turn to violence.
Footage of hundreds of them brawling over food in the streets went viral on social media in March. Their growing numbers – doubling in three years to 6,000 – have made an uneasy coexistence with their human peers almost intolerable.
An abandoned cinema is the macaques’ headquarters. Nearby, a shop owner displays stuffed tiger and crocodile toys to try to scare off the monkeys, who regularly snatch spray-paint cans from his store.