Saturday, November 30, 2013

On the Protests in Bangkok

It's Sunday morning, the First of December, on what may go down as an important day in Thai history. Or, it may not.

Today is the day the most noteworthy leader of the anti-government protests here in Thailand has promised will be the day a new “People's Assembly” will ascend and
end the rule of the current regime. The demonstrations here have been going on for a month now, and have been increasing in intensity all the while. Over the last week, they've begun to occupy government buildings, sharpen the tone of their rhetoric and even cut power to the national telecommunications company (as this disabled some important servers, and killed internet access for 750,000 households, it wasn't a popular move). Now, this leader has set other deadlines in the past, and although they've moved the ball forward at times, new deadlines were created as the anti-government
forces saw that they were moving closer to their ultimate goal: the ousting of the Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawattra.

I won't go over all the intricacies of the policies and history, suffice to say that Thai politics over the last decade or so has been dominated by two sides who either support or oppose one man: Taksin Shinawattra. Note the same last name as the current
PM. She's his sister. Some call him a great leader. Some hate him and anything he's connected with. He's not here in Thailand right now, living in self-imposed exile in Dubai after he was convicted on corruption charges in absentia, and given a 2-year prison term.

The current round of protests started about a month ago when Taksin's party pushed through a bill in parliament that granted blanket amnesty to thousands going back a decade or more and would have allowed Taksin to come home (On a side note, the man's name is pronounced like a mix of toxin and taxin', both very unfortunate monikers for a politician). The bill was rejected by the Senate, the bill was withdrawn but the protests continued. What started as a protest against a particular piece of legislation has ballooned into a full blown call for Yingluck's resignation and new elections.  

Meanwhile, thousands of 'red shirts', supporters of the gov't in power, have taken up camp at another protest site as a counter-demonstration to what the anti-Taksinists are up to. 

Last night, the first real clash between these two groups occurred on a road I had driven down earlier that day. One dead, multiple injured. The police are out in force to keep the peace. Special security measures have been instituted city-wide. Tensions are high. Anything could happen.

Or, nothing could happen, and next week the protests will continue.

Interesting times.

It's against the backdrop that I ventured out yesterday with my camera to both of the two camps. Spent the morning with red-shirts. Spent the afternoon with the yellow-shirts. Got a feel for what's going on. The sites themselves were full of energy, loud speeches, passionate people and lots and lots of vendors selling stuff. Enjoy the video.

Now, do I dare go out today and do it again? Neither side is in any way anti-foreigner, and I am as neutral as one can get on the issues. I'd be just as safe as any other I day I leave the clutches of my condo. I think. 


  1. Breaking news: The leaders of the redshirts at the stadium have ended and dispersed their rally. This is good news. Reduces the likelihood of clashes.

  2. Update: The gov't still stands, although police did have to use tear gas and water cannons to keep protesters out of the most critical gov't buildings. State of Emergency has been declared. Both the leader of the opposition and the PM spoke to the nation on TV, and supposedly sat down and talked. Tomorrow, my school is closed for the students due to the unrest; we teachers still have to go to work.

  3. Whose puppy? I think I would have been too nervous to go out.

  4. Update: Yesterday, the anti-gov't protestors announced they were going to devote all their efforts into occupying one of a handful of places they haven't been allowed into: national police headquarters. The police/gov't responded by taking down the barriers and saying, 'sure come on in!" The protestors announced a 'limited victory' and both sides agreed to a truce for today and tomorrow to honor one of the most important holidays in Thailand: the King's Birthday. Friday, it will all start up again. What this does to the opposition's momentum, it's hard to say. The whole thing is been put on 'pause'.


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