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Bangkok HOWTO Thai politics Thailand

Bangkok protests: What happened today and how to follow the news

Anti-government protesters, whose rallies I’ve written about before, stepped up their demonstrations today. Above is AP video of scuffles that broke out with police.

Here’s a recap of what happened today:

Other stories:

Regarding economic implications, The WSJ quotes an analyst as saying:

“Investor sentiment on Thailand is in the doldrums at the moment,” said Barnabas Gan, an analyst covering the country for OCBC. “The current protests right now basically confirmed the pessimism that global investors have” over the country, he said.

There’s more from Bloomberg. And The NYT has some color from the Finance Ministry:

By late afternoon, protesters could be seen napping and snacking in two of the ministry’s conference rooms, but they had not yet penetrated the main offices. Riot police have been deployed in Bangkok for several weeks, but no police officers were visible in the compound.

Mr. Suthep said protesters had chosen to occupy the Finance Ministry because it is at the heart of the government.

“From now on, this government can no longer transfer money,” he said. “Not a single coin will be used by the Thaksin regime anymore.”

Monitoring the protest sites

Richard Barrow maintains a Google map of Bangkok protest areas:


View Protest Areas in Bangkok in November 2013 in a larger map

I also suggest following Richard on Twitter for updates.

My Twitter lists

Blogs to watch

Advice for US citizens

The US Embassy’s American Citizen Services Tweeted this tonight:

Follow me on Twitter

As always, follow me on Twitter for the latest.

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Thai politics Thailand

My favorite chart illustrating trends in Thai governance over the decades

2013 11 20 thai constitution

A study of Thai politics in the 20th century reveals that the country has continuously alternated between democratic and military systems of government. As I mentioned earlier on Twitter, yesterday’s Constitution Court verdict — that the government’s attempt to make the Senate fully elected is unconstitutional — provides an opportunity to share my favorite graphic related to the country’s governance. (The image is available on Wikipedia’s Constitution of Thailand page, copyright Patiwat Panurach.)

As you’ll see above, Thailand’s many constitutions and charters through the years have had varying numbers of elected and appointed executives; political turbulence surrounding such changes has been the norm for Thailand. It’s no different today.

For more on the court verdict, I suggest this Wall Street Journal story. There’s more from The AP, BBC, The New York Times, and Reuters.

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Thai politics Thailand

Thailand protests: anti-amnesty push morphs into an effort to topple Yingluck

2013 11 12 rally
Outside the Terminal 21 shopping mall

2013 11 12rally2
Marching down Sukhumvit road

2013 11 12rally3
Heading toward Phloenchit

Above are a few photos I snapped yesterday as protesters marched near the Asoke intersection here in Bangkok.

A few thoughts:

The protests began last week and targeted a proposed amnesty bill that could have led to the return of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Though the Thai Senate last night rejected the bill, the demonstrations continue. In fact, an opposition leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, has now called for a general strike from Nov. 13-15 (tomorrow through Friday).

“We will escalate our fight by inviting the people to rigorously carry out civil disobedience throughout the country,” he told the Associated Press. The AP continues:

He called for a three-day closure of businesses and schools to allow people to join the strike; a withholding of taxes that allegedly are used for corruption; the display of the national flag; and the blowing of whistles, which have become a noisy tool of protest, near government leaders.

So why are the demonstrations continuing despite the legislation’s demise?

For one thing, the lower house can resubmit the bill after 180 days. But organizers surely couldn’t keep rallies going for six months anyway.

Instead, the protests aren’t really about the bill anymore. Indeed, a refrain among the demonstrators I saw yesterday was “awwk bpai” (ออกไป), which means “get out.” As in, it’s time for the government of Prime Minister Yingluck — Thaksin’s younger sister, of course — to go.

As analyst Thitinan Pongsudhirak told the New York Times yesterday, “The opposition to the amnesty bill has been deep and wide…It has now escalated into an effort to overthrow the government.”

What next?

Regarding protests yesterday, Reuters says:

More than 10,000 riot police were stationed around main government buildings near the rallies, which are stoking fears of clashes between rival groups, the kind of violence that has sunk governments in the past.

While the AP concludes:

Although the latest protests are the strongest against Yingluck’s government, it is unclear if they are sustainable, especially in view of the overwhelming support that her government has in Parliament.

As ever, follow me on Twitter for developments.

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Thai politics Thailand

An update on Thailand’s amnesty bill — and the potential for protests early next month

The WSJ reports today:

An assembly of civil society groups has threatened to mobilize rallies across Thailand if the government pushes through a proposed amnesty bill that could open the door for deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to re-enter the country a free man.

The draft legislation has recently been altered in a way that could clear past legal convictions against Mr. Thaksin, who was handed a two-year prison sentence in absentia in 2008 for abuse of power.

And:

Should the newly altered bill make it to a final vote, it could spark a fresh round of political chaos in a country frequently mired in street protests.

The legislation is still subject to several rounds of debate in the House and Senate before it becomes law. In the meantime, eight anti-Thaksin groups said they would meet this Sunday to decide the timing of mass street demonstrations planned for early November. The exact time and venue have yet to be announced.

Worth a read.

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Thai politics Thailand

Thailand Rubber Farmers’ Protests Continue

Reuters reports today:

Thailand faced pressure on Friday to end a two-week protest by rubber farmers after violent overnight clashes between riot police and a group of protesters who hurled rocks and bottles filled with an acidic liquid.

Police fired tear gas to disperse a group of protesters in Prachuap Khiri Khan province on a main road from Bangkok to the southern beach resort region of Phuket. At least 21 policemen were injured, authorities said.

“Acid and rocks were thrown at police, leaving one officer with a serious injury. Orders were issued to use teargas after a group of youths, who were not part of the protest, fired at police,” Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok said on Friday.

For more, see stories from The AP, AFP, Al Jazeera, and The Bangkok Post.

And for an interesting look at Thailand’s rubber market, see this Bangkok Pundit post:

One thing that has surprised BP regarding the recent protests by rubber farmers is when analyzing the issue that little coverage is given to the actual rubber market. Successive governments have provided price support/subsidies for rice and rubber, but in slightly different forms. BP views there is a key reason for this and that is the markets for rice and rubber are quite different. This issue seems to be glossed over. One big difference is the existence of synthetic rubber.