in Thai politics

Thailand update: Protesters plan to ‘shut down’ Bangkok Jan. 13

As expected, more protests are on the horizon here in Bangkok, with anti-government demonstrators continuing their efforts to topple the prime minister and derail elections scheduled for February 2.

There have been rallies in recent days, and protesters plan a city-wide “shutdown” on Monday, January 13.

Reuters reported yesterday:

Thailand is heading for a political showdown, with anti-government protesters aiming to sabotage an election by shutting down Bangkok next week, deepening a crisis that has divided the country and looks set to squeeze economic growth this year.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra faces swelling opposition in Bangkok ahead of the February 2 election in which her supporters in the rural north and northeast are expected to return her to power – if the vote can go ahead.

Thousands of demonstrators marched through Bangkok on Sunday as a prelude to rallies starting on January 13, when they plan to block government offices and occupy key intersections for days in a bid to force out Yingluck and scuttle the poll.

And said in a story today:

The authorities say 20,000 police, backed up by troops, will be deployed in the streets on Monday, the first day of the planned “shutdown”.

“We’re expecting large crowds on Monday and are concerned about the likelihood of violence … especially third parties trying to instigate violence,” National Security Council Chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr told Reuters.

And:

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has tried to keep the military above the fray but some recent comments have been ambiguous.

Asked by reporters about coup talk on Tuesday, he said: “Don’t be afraid of things that have not yet happened … but if they happen, do not be frightened. There are rumours like this every year.”

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Bangkok issued, via email, this message today. It mentions various parts of the city that may be targeted:

This is to advise U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Thailand that political activists have announced plans to resume marches and lunch time “whistleblowing” protest activities in Bangkok this week in preparation for simultaneous mass rallies at key intersections in Central Bangkok beginning on Monday, January 13th.

Currently, areas around the Democracy Monument and Government House are the main protest sites. Protest leaders say, however, that these stages will be dismantled and that protest sites will be dispersed to many different intersections spread throughout downtown Bangkok, including Asok, Lumpini, Ratchaprasong, and Silom intersections. Protests may also occur elsewhere in Thailand.

Elsewhere, The Nation says:

The Government Complex on Chaeng Wattana Road, one of the seven spots, will be blocked to bar civil servants from working.

Other rally sites will be the Lat Phrao intersection, which will be under the control of representatives of Rangsit and Kasetsart universities and joined by people from the north and northeast. The Victory Monument and Pathumwan intersection will be held by Chulalongkorn University, Lumpini Park by Silom business group, Asoke intersection by Srinakharinwirot University and the National Institute of Development Administration, and Ratchaprasong by Dr Seri Wongmontha and entertainment personalities.

And:

Suthep gave assurances that Suvarnabhumi airport and transport terminals would not be sealed off, and all public transportation services will operate as usual.

I may write more on this in the days ahead, or as events warrant, though I have posts planned on unrelated topics.

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