The ongoing anti-government protests that I have written about before were stepped up a couple of weeks ago when the “Peoples Democratic Reform Committee” moved out of their previous base at Democracy Monument and spread across the city, taking over six major intersections plus another main road outside the Government Offices complex.
On the first day the central city was awash with red, white and blue, as hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the protests. The numbers since then may have dwindled during the day, but increase again in the evening after work, and on weekends. Most of the protesters come from Bangkok so they can go home at night but there are many from the country who camp at the protest sites.
For those who may know Bangkok, the areas around Sala Daeng intersection at Lumphini Park, Asoke, CentralWorld and MBK shopping centres have been closed off, the roads barricaded, and turned into an impromptu street market. In fact you can walk along the road from Chidlom Skytrain station all the way to the MBK mall, which is something like closing George St, in Sydney, from the Town Hall to Circular Quay. With music, food and shopping it seems more like a festival than a protest !
The government did declare a state of emergency last week, and again threatened to arrest all the protest leaders and anybody donating money to them. In response the protesters marched past the police HQ with no police to be seen, and people coming out of their workplaces to shove money into the coffers of the PDRC ….so I don’t think people took much notice of the state of emergency decree !
I did have a draft version of this post almost ready to go, saying how it had been largely peaceful but there have been a few attacks on the protesters, which has prompted them to put up roadblocks and sometimes search peoples’ bags . The Minister in charge of the police operation issued a couple of not so veiled threats of possible violence against the protesters, and lo and behold yesterday one of the protest leaders was killed, by shots apparently from a group of “redshirt” government supporters. Coincidence ? maybe, maybe not. The Minister should know a thing or two about violence as his sons were notorious for it. One son was charged with murder a few years ago after allegedly executing a police officer in a bar .. all the witnesses either could n’t be found or had lost their memory by the time the case came to court. Coincidence ? again, maybe or maybe not. Apparently it became the bar owner’s fault for not closing on time !
Another government minister has a father nicknamed the “Godfather of Chonburi” who was convicted of the murder of a political rival but who disappeared while out on bail, and of course the son (supposedly) never knew where the father was….yeah, and pigs might fly. The current Prime Minister is of course the sister of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, a convicted criminal on the run from a jail sentence but who still pulls the strings of the government from his luxury hideout in Dubai. She is #1 on the party list for elections scheduled for next week, number 2 is his brother in law. With a government like this, with criminal connections everywhere and an ongoing investigation into enormous corruption in the government’s rice subsidy scheme, is it any wonder the PDRC want reforms before elections ?
The election is scheduled for next Sunday Feb 2, but it may not go ahead because of possible violence. Even if it does it will be a waste of time as there are 28 constituencies without a candidate due to boycotts, and under Thai constitutional law there must be at least 475 out of 500 MPs elected before Parliament can meet so they are going to be at least 3 short already, and there are usually several who get ‘red-carded’ and disqualified for electoral irregularities, ie bribery, vote buying or some technicality or other.
And of course there is always the chance that the military will step in, not for the first time. There was an article in the newspaper making a few pointed comments about how the Air Force refused a request to use an airbase as HQ for the state of emergency staff, how the top general refused to meet some politicians and ignored others, and how a senior naval officer told the police to do their job properly so that the military will not have to clean up their mess.
Meanwhile life goes on as normal for most of Bangkok, the only difference being that there is less traffic on the road and more people using the Skytrain and Metro .. which is not a bad thing, although it can be crowded on the Skytrain at rush hour. Yesterday was an advance voting day, which means that alcohol sales were banned from 6pm the evening before (Saturday) to prevent people from voting while drunk/being influenced by free drinks ! Saturday afternoon I was drinking with friends down in the ghetto, at 6pm the staff came around and poured everybodies’ drinks out of bottles into glasses partly hidden in condoms (drink coolers/stubby holders). It would have fooled nobody if the police had came looking, but the nearest they came to that was driving down along the street with their lights flashing. It did bemuse the tourists though, who often had no idea what was happening. The bargirls tried to explain ‘election tomorrow, no can sell alcohol” so some tourists thought the bars were actually going to close (as they are supposed to). All rather ridiculous as we farangs cannot vote anyway, it just hurts the tourist industry. As they say, T.I.T. ….this is Thailand !
Anyway, some pics :