Thailand on the edge

In August of 2013 a street protest movement began in Bangkok.  It’s initial instigation was a proposed Amnesty Bill that would clear all protesters, government, and military personal in wrong doing from 2004 to 2013, including murder and corruption charges.  Murder charges against leaders of the Democrat Party for the 2010 crackdown and corruption charges against the ex Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, included.  Public outcry from every side killed the bill and the opposition smelled blood.

Protesters during the Anti Amnesty rallies at Lupini Park in Augsut, 2013.

Protesters during the Anti Amnesty rallies at Lupini Park in Augsut, 2013.  Click on photo for larger image.

Protests led by Suthep Thaugsuban, an ex-deputy prime minister from the Democrat Party, continued after the Amnesty Bill was defeated and their rally was now for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinwatra, sister of the exiled Thaksin, to step down and hand over power.  Protesters later clarified they also wanted to do away with democracy and apoint their own selected group of “good people” to run the country under a People’s Assmbley.  The protesters demands became more aggressive as did their tactics come November.  Anti-government protesters took over many Government buildings and shut down opperations as well as marching daily and occupying various swathes of the city.  Yet, a visitor to the Thai capital could still spend an entire trip here and be unaware that anything was happening due to the movements happening in specific areas of a very large city.

Violence broke out between protesters and government supporters, protesters and police, and protester against protester. Thai PM Yingluk stepped down and called for new elections in Febuary to which the anti-government protesters and opposition Democratic Party have said they will not take part in and will not permit to happen. The latest violence happened when protesters attempted to stop canidates from registering for the upcoming election.  Following that, Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocah declared that “The door to a coup is neither open nor closed.”  Behind all of this drama unfolding on the streets is a whole other theatre in the shadows, where players are batteling for more then the politically obvious.  Politicians, business, police, military, monarchy, and the people are all players in this high stakes game.  Power struggles are around every corner for the time being.

Anti-government protesters march through the streets of Bangkok and take control of government buildings, such as the Department of Finance.

Anti-government protesters march through the streets of Bangkok blowing whistles and taking control of government buildings, such as the Department of Finance seen here.

As the new year dawns most of Thailand has headed to the country side and the capital has gone quiet for the holiday.  It is indeed the calm before the storm.  Suthep’s last major announcement was a vow to seize Bangkok after the new year, telling his followers to be prepared to help seize Bangkok and “bring your clothes and food with you because we will fight for months before achieving victory.” He advised those in Bangkok who were concerened about the situation they should stay away from the city.

I fear that it will get darker here in Thailand before it gets brighter in 2014.  Hopefully the crisis is adverted and the country is spared the destructive end it is headed.  But with no clear outs for any side, it seems that the new year will serve to ring in the first real round of this battle.  Expect to see more from Thailand in the news this coming year.  At the least the country will see more clashes across Bangkok, very possibly a coup, and at the worst there is potential for a much more violent conflict.. Either way this story heads you can rest assured that your average Thai will be the one to suffer as those in power fight it out for control.

Protesters attempt to over run the Department of Labor and the remains of clashes between police and protesters near Government House.

Protesters attempt to over run the Department of Labor and the remains of clashes between police and protesters near Government House is seen in the middle.

This is but a brief background that hardly serves as the tip of the iceberg for this ever evolving and complicated manner.  

For some good background on the situation you can read..  

The Election no one really wants

NY Times coverage

What next?

On the protesters

To keep up to the minute on the crisis you can follow on Twitter: @richardbarrow @pakhead @photo_journ @zenjournalist

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