I hate to say it, but there’s a pretty decent chance of a crackdown on extended Thai political protests in Bangkok right now.
While in the past, “red shirt” protesters (who are asking the government to hold new elections they which many believe the ‘red’ side would win) had either massed around key government areas of the city or Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, this time around they got smart and hit the wealthy Thais where it really hurts — they’ve massed in an upscale shopping district. Now they truly can’t be ignored by the elite.
They’re literally outside my condo, and some local contacts I’ve spoken with fear that a military crack down is inevitable should they linger since every day the mob spends in a wealthy shopping district is another day of financial losses for business owners, and a very visible scar for tourists to see. Still, using force could only build further support for the ‘red’ side, so the government is trying to avoid it at all costs… without giving in and actually holding new elections of course.
Thing is, usually these things end short and sharp in Thailand, or they just dissipate into oblivion, then life goes on as usual. Most of the rest of the city will barely notice what’s happening, and most of the elite won’t even care. They’ll just be a annoyed that they can’t stock up on some designer goods this weekend and hope the military mops the situation up so they can get on with things.
“We will tear up all laws,” Nattawut Saikua, a “red shirt” leader said late on Thursday, addressing tens of thousands of the mostly rural and working class protesters who have ignored orders to leave Bangkok’s main shopping district since Saturday.
“We will move out to 10 locations at the same time,” he said. “We don’t want to call it the final day, but if we can score a knockout, we definitely will,” he said. “This is all for Abhisit to dissolve parliament.”
Thousands of the supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and now lives in self-imposed exile, had gathered in the shopping district by morning. Many had slept there on cardboard boxes.
“This is great. I think we are kicking the government right where it hurts. If they don’t give us elections, don’t expect us to give them back their extravagant way of life,” said Panipa Boonnok, 47, a seamstress from northeastern Maharasakam province, happy with the shutdown of one of Bangkok’s poshest areas.
Given that thousands of protesters are camped out right on my doorstep this time, with cars blocking streets and goading the government for a confrontation, it’s pretty good timing that I happen to be outside the country and writing this from afar.
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