As you may be aware, there have been anti-government/anti-corruption protests here in Bangkok for some time now and over the last few days they have intensified, to the point where the protesters have taken over several government offices and ministries, are trying to take Government House, and have blockaded the Royal Thai Police Headquarters.
Late on Saturday night I heard many police sirens go past my condo, which is unusual because Thai police never rush anywhere ! It turned out that 4 people had been shot dead at a university about 5 kms from my place, allegedly by “redshirt” supporters of the government (and Thaksin Shinawatra, former Prime Minister, brother of current PM, and convicted criminal on the run from a jail term). The next day things really kicked off when the protesters split into several groups to occupy their targets, with some covered live on local TV, even to the extent of live coverage from their command post ! There was the rather unusual (to me at least) sight of a Buddhist monk giving directions to the protesters from atop their “command vehicle”….all rather surreal.
Most of the places were an easy conquest but at Government House the police were ready with 5 rows of concrete barriers, razor wire, tear gas and water cannons. Last I saw on TV the protesters had got it down to the last 2 rows of concrete before the tear gas and water cannon brought things to a stalemate.
Today I had to go downtown, past the Police HQ, where there was a small but noisy crowd outside, and a large number of riot police behind the fence and razor wire. Normally I would have used the elevated “skywalk’ but it was closed off, probably because it would be too easy to lob something into the police compound from there, so I had to go along the road, through the crowd.
There’s no way I was going to go near any of the real action to get some photos, I’ll leave that to the pro press photographers in their body armour and gas masks, but I did get a few snaps :
My Thai friend was too embarrassed to translate all the caricature of the police emblem, but she said the first part was something like ‘work for the Thai people, not …..” and the rest is pretty self explanatory I think ! Police corruption, political favouritism and interference being one of the grievances of the protesters, along with government corruption and the undue influence of Thaksin Shinawatra over his sister’s government.
When I came back an hour later, the crowd had grown considerably as people finished work and joined the rally. During the last protests in 2010 many taxi drivers and motorcycle taxi drivers joined the “redshirts” but I’ve noticed that this time many of them have switched sides or been conspicuously neutral. Rather strangely, the redshirts that had come down from the countryside to “defend their government” and camped in a stadium in the outer suburbs went home during the weekend. The accepted wisdom is that normally they do what their hero and funder Thaksin tells them to do ?
One of the offices the protesters took over was the Government offices complex housing Immigration … unfortunately for me as I have to go see them this week ! The TV tonight showed the leader giving a speech out there, they are well set up already with food, mobile toilets, large stage and entertainment between speeches. Somehow I don’t think they will be leaving anytime soon …..