‘Bangkok Shutdown’ day 3: overnight violence, Feb. 2 elections to go ahead

Here’s the latest:

  1. Two people were hurt in a shooting early this morning. And separately, the Bangkok residence of Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was hit with a small explosive device.
  2. The Thai stock exchange moved some staff to another location after demonstrators threatened to take control of its offices.
  3. Prime Minister Yigluck said the Feb. 2 elections will go ahead.

The AP reports:

Gunshots rang out in the heart of Thailand’s capital overnight in an apparent attack on anti-government protesters early Wednesday that wounded at least two people and ratcheted up tensions in Thailand’s deepening political crisis.

Most of Bangkok remains unaffected by the latest wave of rallies. But the shooting was the latest in a string of violent incidents that have kept the vast metropolis on edge amid fears the country’s deadlock could spiral out of control.

Bangkok’s emergency services office said one man was hit in the ankle and a woman was hit in the arm in the shooting, which occurred on a street leading to one of Bangkok’s glitziest shopping districts that has been occupied since Monday by camping demonstrators trying to bring down Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government.

Sompong Pongsattha, a 56-year-old resident who witnessed the attack in the Pathumwan district, said about 30 gunshots were fired from an unknown location toward a protest barricade over the course of about two hours.

And:

In another incident overnight, a small explosive device was hurled into a residential compound owned by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, shattering windows and slightly damaging a roof, according to Police Col. Chumpol Phumphuang and Abhisit’s opposition Democrat Party. No injuries were reported, and Abhisit — who resigned from Parliament last month to join protesters — was not home at the time.

The WSJ says:

Thailand’s stock exchange moved some personnel Wednesday from its main building to a shopping mall following threats to seize the premises by antigovernment protesters who have tried to shut down areas of central Bangkok.

Reuters reports:

Thailand’s government stuck to a plan for a February election on Wednesday despite mounting pressure from protesters who have brought parts of Bangkok to a near-standstill, and said it believed support for the leader of the agitation was waning.

Some hardline protesters have threatened to blockade the stock exchange and an air traffic control facility if Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra does not step down by a deadline media said had been set for 8 p.m.

Meanwhile, Prachatai has a map of “anti-coup” rallies that took place around the country on Monday, the day “Bangkok Shutdown” began. A bigger version is here.

2014 01 15 anti coup protests

And finally, following my previous post, here are a few more snapshots from Asoke intersection — one of the protest sites — this afternoon. (I’ve also uploaded the pics to my “Bangkok Shutdown” Flickr set.)

Blog posts will be sporadic in the days ahead, but as always, you can find me on Twitter for more frequent updates.

Thailand update: 1 killed in clashes with police, EC urges election delay, Nattawut speaks

The AP reports:

Thailand’s election commission on Thursday urged the government to delay upcoming polls as clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters killed a police officer and injured nearly 100 people, adding to political turmoil threatening to tear apart the country.

The hours-long unrest took place outside a Bangkok sports stadium where election candidates were gathering to draw lots for their positions on the ballot. Protesters threw rocks as they tried to break into the building to halt the process, while police fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

There’s more from the WSJ, Bloomberg, the BBC, and Reuters.

Elsewhere, the WSJ’s Southeast Asia Real Time has a Q&A with Red Shirt leader Nattawut Saikua:

WSJ: Both the Red Shirts and Mr. Suthep’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee claim to command mass support. Can the two sides avoid a conflict?

Mr. Nattawut: I will try my best to prevent a confrontation and protect a rules-based system. I think the Feb. 2 election could be the answer and help prevent conflict. But if Mr. Suthep prevents the election going ahead and succeeds in setting up a people’s assembly, it will be the last straw. It will drive our side onto the streets. We are always ready to talk with Mr. Suthep’s supporters, though. Our demands are for elections under the democratic system, but Mr. Suthep’s are not. If we can achieve that, then each person will get one vote. On the other hand, if Mr. Suthep succeeds, then nobody will have a vote because he took them all. Mr. Suthep’s victory would not be the people’s victory, but our victory is the real people’s victory because everybody will have the same rights and freedoms as everybody else.

Meanwhile, there’s this:

As ever, stay tuned.

NY Times: ’36 Hours in Bangkok’

I often enjoy the The New York Times‘s “36 Hours in…” dispatches.

The travel pieces usually convey, in perhaps 1,500 words, both the destination’s atmosphere and practical tips for visiting.

So I was delighted to see today’s “36 Hours in Bangkok,” by veteran correspondent Thomas Fuller.

I especially like the lede, because it mirrors much of my affection for the Thai capital:

Bangkok has hit the sweet spot. It’s modern but far from antiseptic, filled with luxuries, pampering and great food — but still affordable. In the glare of the tropical sun it can be an ugly sprawl of tangled wires and broken pavement. Yet amid the chaos, visitors find charm and, above all, character. Somehow extremes coexist: skyscrapers and moldy tenements; high-end, cloth-napkin dining and tasty street food stalls; five-star hotels and fleabag guesthouses overflowing with backpackers; libidinous hedonism and Buddhist meditation. To travel across Bangkok is to see several worlds at once. Increasingly it is also convenient. The city of paralyzing traffic now has ample public transportation options ranging from boats to an expanding subway system. But if there is one reason visitors return again and again to Bangkok, it is the people. The anonymity and daily grind of urban life is slowly wearing away at the legendary Thai smile. Yet Bangkok remains one of the friendliest cities on the planet, still infused with the Thai village traditions of hospitality and graciousness.

There’s also a slideshow.

Bangkok Street Life Inventions: Garbage Bag Poncho and Frond-Fashioned Napping Shade

I wanted to share two photos I snapped recently. They both demonstrate interesting Bangkok street life improvisations.

First: It’s the middle of rainy season here, so what do you do when you’re caught in an evening downpour without an umbrella?

Simple — make a poncho (with a cutout for your face) out of a plastic bag:

2012 07 17 bangkok rain jacket

And second: What do you do if you’re a motorcycle taxi driver and your favorite hammock is getting too much mid-day sun?

Simple — fashion a shade out of some fronds and affix it to the over-hanging electrical wires:

2012 07 17 bangkok hammock shade

Problems solved.

Self-Promotion: My New WSJ Scene Asia Story on Hip Bangkok Nightlife

I have a story about hip Bangkok nightlife over at The Wall Street Journal‘s Scene Asia.

The piece is called Bangkok’s Creative Watering Holes, and begins:

What looks like a saloon entrance leads to a low-lit cavern, and up the wrought-iron staircase, a sultry woman croons along with a jazz combo.

Downstairs, the well-heeled crowds sip elaborately crafted cocktails, seemingly unconcerned with the blacksmith tools scattered about.

This is a typical after-hours scene in Bangkok, or more specifically, Thong Lor, one of the City of Angels’ most cosmopolitan neighborhoods. A world away from the backpacker dives of Khao San Road and the city’s less salubrious red-light districts, the area—based around Sukhumvit Road’s Soi 55—offers edgy watering holes, craft brews on tap and pop-up music nights that cater to locals and expats alike, proving that it’s possible to have a night out in Bangkok without recreating “The Hangover Part II.”

Lady Gaga Arrives in Bangkok

2012 05 24 lady gaga bkk

Take note: One of the world’s biggest pop stars has arrived in the Thai capital.

Above is a snapshot of today’s Bangkok Post front page.

The Post reports:

Lady Gaga arrived at Don Mueang airport in her private jet late Wednesday, and was greeted by a large crowd of fans before her Friday evening concert in Bangkok.

She immediately tweeted:

“I just landed in Bangkok, baby! Ready for 50,000 screaming Thai monsters. I wanna get lost in a lady market and buy fake Rolex.”

There’s also a video clip of her arrival, embedded above and on YouTube here.

Regarding the singer’s choice of attire, @Binderdonedat riffed thusly:

(Style mavens and hard core Gaga fans can see more photos of her outfit here.)

(All emphasis mine.)

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport: In the News

2012 03 18 suvarnabhumi immigration

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport has been the subject of several recent news stories about the facility’s long immigration lines and overall congestion:

  • The Bangkok Post reported last Monday that the country’s Immigration Bureau says the lengthy queues are due to unmanageable passenger volume.
  • On Thursday, the Post said that “female riot police officers” will help ease overcrowding by assisting in checking passports.
  • On Friday the Post noted that in order to ease congestion, the government will “encourage” budget airlines to use Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport, the old international gateway.
  • Then on Sat. the Post provided some additional details on possible upgrades to Don Mueang.
  • Elsewhere, Reuters ran a story Friday summing things up. It’s headlined “Bangkok airport problems threaten tourist-friendly image” and begins:

    When Bangkok’s futuristic $4 billion (2.5 billion pound) Suvarnabhumi airport opened six years ago, it was hailed as a model for the region.

    Today, it is beset by two-hour immigration queues, passenger numbers far beyond capacity and a crisis over management.

    Immigration queues have grown so long travellers have been told to arrive three hours before a flight, an hour longer than in most air hubs, threatening to damage Thailand’s tourist-friendly image.

    The problems have become so acute in recent days that the government is trying to convince growing numbers of low-cost carriers to move operations to Don Muang, a domestic airport.

    And:

    The immigration bureau has in the past blamed long queues on a staffing shortage. An official at Suvarnabhumi’s immigration division, however, said it had more to do with lack of space.

    There’s construction going on which is limiting the space we have available for security checks,” he said, declining to be identified.

    But travellers grumble at the frequent site of empty immigration kiosks and lines for foreigner nationals stretching far longer than those of Thais. Others say kiosks designed to hold two officers are often manned by one.

    Some airlines expressed concern and confusion on Friday over an announcement a day earlier by Thailand’s transport minister, Jarupong Ruangsuwan, to move flights to a different airport.

  • And finally, the Straits Times reported that:

    Thai Airways, in a memo this week to travel industry partners, said passengers should arrive three hours before their departure time. For arriving passengers, it noted that processing visas at immigration now takes two hours on average.

    And:

    There is a shortfall of more than 200 immigration officers at Suvarnabhumi because many are reluctant to work at the overcrowded airport.

    “It is a very stressful job — there’s no doubt about it,” said Imtiaz Muqbil, executive editor of Travel Impact Newswire, a trade publication.

    He told The Straits Times: “Most of the officers are not very good in English. They get overwhelmed by the complexity and sheer scale of the traffic, and the risk of making a mistake.”

    Earlier this week, Airports of Thailand (AOT), which runs the terminal, agreed to raise the overtime pay of immigration officers as an additional incentive.

(All emphasis mine.)

(Image: Bangkok Post.)

Off topic: Lady Gaga is Coming to Bangkok in May

2012 03 15 lady gaga bangkok

As a conscientious chronicler of all things Bangkok-related, I would be remiss in my duties were I not to point this out.

The upcoming show, part of the “Born This Way” tour, will take place on Fri., May 25 at Rajamangala Stadium.

Tickets go on sale via ThaiTicketMajor — where you can find additional details — on March 17. (That’s Saturday.)

(Via CoconutsBangkok.)

Yellow Shirts Rally in Lumphini Park

2012 03 11 pad

The Bangkok Post today says:

The People’s Alliance for Democracy yesterday backed away from its threat to stage a major Bangkok rally against the charter rewrite in a move hailed by the government as a breakthrough in easing political tensions.

However, after a meeting of about 2,000 rowdy PAD supporters at Lumpini Park Hall, the group’s leaders said shelving the mass rally was dependent on two conditions. First, the constitution rewrite should not reduce the power of the King or change the structure of the monarchy, and second, it should not open the way for an amnesty for fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his “cronies”.

The Nation, meanwhile, reports:

The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) will set up a committee to campaign for national reform instead of holding mass rallies to counter the Pheu Thai-led government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, according to PAD spokesman Panthep Pourpongpan.

Panthep said the group would launch protests if the government changes Article 112 of the Penal Code, amends the charter or any laws to waive penalties on Thaksin Shinawatra and his group, and when the time is right.

And:

It was the first mass rally of the anti-Thaksin PAD, known as the yellow shirts, since Thaksin’s sister Yingluck became the prime minister. More than 3,000 people joined the rally, which lasted from 10am until late evening.

(All emphasis mine.)

(Image: The Nation.)