Thailand update: Suthep calls for more rallies; still no word on Democrats’ election participation

A quick update:

Reuters reports today that faced with dwindling numbers or demonstrators, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has called for marches on Thursday (tomorrow) and Friday and a gathering on Sunday:

Anti-government demonstrators in Thailand said they will step up their protests in an attempt to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office and push through electoral reforms before a general election is held.

The number of protesters camped on the street in the capital has dwindled to about 2,000 over the past week but their leader, former deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban, called for marches in central Bangkok on Thursday and Friday, followed by a big rally on Sunday.

It will be interesting to watch the turnout.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have yet to decide whether or not they’ll take part in February’s elections. Bloomberg says:

Thailand’s main opposition party, which re-elected former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as leader yesterday, will meet Dec. 21 to decide whether to boycott a snap election forced by protests that gripped the capital.

The Democrat Party faces a tough call on whether to run in the Feb. 2 polls as its stands to be hurt “both ways” by its decision, Abhisit told reporters in Bangkok yesterday after the group’s meeting, where members voted overwhelmingly to re-elect him. New and past board members of the party and former lawmakers will be invited to the take part in the decision-making gathering, he said.

Other links:

A recent BBC video report from Northeastern Thailand shows — in case it were ever in doubt — the extent of political polarization here. (Click through to view it.)

And the WSJ‘s Southeast Asia Real time has a story on Thais who are trying to remain neutral amid the political crisis:

Amid political protests that have divided Thailand into two opposing camps – those in support of the government and those against it – a third voice is being silenced for trying to remain neutral.

These “Silent” or “Indifferent Thais,” as they’ve been dubbed by both sides, have chosen to stay out of a battle that has seen protesters opposed to the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra take to the streets in ever larger numbers over the past few weeks.

As the situations escalates, Thais who have tried their hardest not to get involved say the divisions in the country are making their lives harder.

“Talking politics in daily life is difficult these days as it could easily lead to fierce arguments,” said 41-year-old Dome Promayorn, a sales manager for a consumer good’s company in Bangkok.

He has chosen not to join the rallies because he says the protest leaders lack “vision,” but his wife has regularly been attending the protests without him.

Worth a read.

And finally, Here’s a cartoon from a recent edition of the International New York Times that produced some interesting replies when I shared it on Twitter Monday.

Thailand update: We’ve reached a stalemate

Hurry up and wait.

Those looking for a speedy solution to Thailand’s ongoing political crisis might be feeling that way at the moment. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban continues to insist PM Yingluck quit; she she refuses to do that, having already dissolved parliament.

Suthep says he won’t participate in government-sponsored reform talks, and it’s unclear whether or not the Democrats will take part in elections set for Feb. 2.

Recent days have, however, brought a few basic details on Suthep’s proposal for a new system of government. Reuters reports:

The leader of a protest group trying to overthrow Thailand’s government and scrap planned elections said on Friday the prime minister should either step down or be forced out, and his movement would then need around a year to push through reforms.

Suthep Thaugsuban, a lawmaker who resigned from parliament to lead the protest, and his allies have spoken of a volunteer police force, decentralization of power and electoral reform – but apart from that have been short on specifics.

And:

The “soft way out” of the impasse, Suthep said, was for Yingluck to quit and let his council push through reforms. Failing that, the people would simply seize power, he said.

“Once we complete this in 12 to 14 months’ time … everything will return to normal,” Suthep said.

Elsewhere, here are some other stories worth checking out:

Updates here will be less frequent than earlier unless there’s big news. As always, follow me on Twitter for more regular dispatches.

Thailand update: Yingluck won’t quit, details from Suthep, more drone journalism

Here’s the latest:

Yingluck won’t quit.

The AP reports:

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said Tuesday she would not resign ahead of national elections set for Feb. 2, despite opposition demands she step down as the caretaker head of government.

Yingluck spoke one day after she announced elections — and one day after the main opposition leader ended a massive protest rally of 150,000 people by insisting his movement had now assumed broad political power.

And:

Yingluck told reporters Tuesday that ‘‘I must do my duty as caretaker prime minister according to the constitution.’’

She became choked up when asked about her family’s role in Thai politics.

‘‘I’m not without emotion,’’ she said, her voice quavering. ‘‘I’m also Thai. Do you want me not to step foot on Thai soil anymore?

‘‘I have retreated as far as I can. So I ask to be treated fairly,’’ she said, turning and walking quickly away from the podium.

Embedded above and on YouTube here is video.

Suthep provides details

Meanwhile, what does protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban propose in the way of a new governmet, exactly? The New York Times has some details on what he said last night:

In a rambling speech to supporters, the main leader of the protest, Suthep Thaugsuban, declared a “people’s revolution” and a chance for the country to “start over.” The police, notorious for their corruption, would be replaced with “security volunteers,” he said. A new constitution would be written that would ban populist policies of the type that Mr. Thaksin has employed. And a “people’s council” would replace Parliament.

Elsewhere, a couple of quotes from Bloomberg worth checking out:

“Thailand’s crisis will not be resolved unless there is an unlikely compromise, bloody civil war, or the king steps in,” said Paul Chambers, director of research at the Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs at Chiang Mai University. “He might do so again,” Chambers said.

And:

Yingluck allowed protesters to seize government buildings without police resistance last week in an effort to avoid violence that could give powerful institutions reason to intervene, said Michael Montesano, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. Those institutions may have pressured Yingluck to dissolve the house, he said.

“One can only expect the government, now with a caretaker status, will continue to turn the other cheek,” Montesano said. “But the Democrats clearly smell blood. And, without some sort of outside pressure on them to calm down, there is every reason to expect them to continue to agitate for a very different political system.”

NMA on Thailand

Thailand has received the Next Media Animation treatment — complete with incorrect pronunciation of names.

Embedded above and on YouTube here: “Is Yingluck finally outta luck?” (Via Bangkok Pundit.)

More drone journalism

And finally: I’ve written, both here and at Quartz, about the increasing use of drone journalism here in Thailand.

Click through to see a BBC report from yesterday in which drone protest footage transitions to a live piece to camera. Pretty cool.

Thailand update: Yingluck dissolves house, calls new elections—and protests continue

The latest:

Following the Democrats’ resignation from parliament yesterday, today some 100,000 protesters marched through Bangkok to Government House.

But just as the protest was beginning this morning, news came that Yingluck had dissolved parliament, paving the way for new elections:

The proposed election date is February 2. Yingluck will run again.

And the protests continue.

From Reuters:

The leader of the anti-government movement, Suthep Thaugsuban, said he would not end his demonstrations and would continue a march to Yingluck’s offices at Government House.

“Today, we will continue our march to Government House. We have not yet reached our goal. The dissolving of parliament is not our aim,” Suthep, a former deputy prime minister under the previous military-backed government, told Reuters.

Asked about Yingluck, one protester told the AP:

‘‘We will keep on protesting because we want her family to leave this country,’’ said Boonlue Mansiri, one of tens of thousands who joined a 20-kilometer (12-mile) march to Yingluck’s office.

The sentiment was the same across town, where protesters filled a major four-lane road in the city’s central business district, waving flags, blowing whistles and holding a huge banner that said, ‘‘Get Out Shinawatra.’’

Asked about the dissolution of Parliament, one middle-aged woman in the crowd said, ‘‘It is too late’’ and ‘‘It’s not enough.’’

‘‘At the end of the day, we are going to win,’’ said the woman who identified herself as Paew. ‘‘What happens now? Don’t worry. We will figure it out.’’

Meanwhile, the Red Shirts cancelled a rally that was to be held tomorrow in Ayutthaya.

Other links:

Thailand update: Democrats quit parliament, protesters to march tomorrow (Monday)

The opposition Democrat party today said they’re resigning from parliament en masse. As the AP reports:

Thailand’s main opposition party resigned from Parliament on Sunday to protest what it called “the illegitimacy” of a government with which it can no longer work. The move deepens the country’s latest political crisis one day before new street demonstrations that many fear could turn violent.

Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut told The Associated Press his party could not work in the legislature anymore because the body is “no longer accepted by the people.”

Regarding the march tomorrow (Monday), the Bangkok Post says:

All nine major anti-government rallies from various points in Bangkok will move towards one place – Government House – on Monday in what protester leader Suthep Thaugsuban has called the final effort achieve the ultimate goal of uprooting the Thaksin regime.

The protests led by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) on Monday are intended to wrap up the one-month of demonstrations which began at Samsen railway station before moving to three key areas – Democracy Monument, the Finance Ministry compound and the Government Complex.

PDRC spokesman Akanat Prompan announced on Sunday that they will not intrude on the compound of the Prime Minister’s Office. However, the demonstrators will surround it.

And:

Of the 50 or more groups, nine would be directed by the PDRC – two from the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River and seven from the Bangkok side. All columns, except the one led by PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban, would start to move at 9.39am. The main rally led by Mr Suthep will take off from the Chaeng Wattana government offices complex at 8.29am

Here’s a security message from the US Embassy in Bangkok:

Domestic political activists in Thailand have announced they intend to hold large demonstrations at several sites throughout Bangkok on Monday, December 9, 2013. These demonstrations may continue in the coming days, including at several Thai government facilities in areas within and outside of Central Bangkok.

Meanwhile, here are some assorted links I suggest checking out:

Thailand protests update: a few links to share

The truce holds, at least for now.

The Thai king turned 86 today; it’s a national holiday.

Meanwhile, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told supporters Tuesday night:

“We will start our fight again on December 6. We will start as dawn is breaking and we will fight every day until we get victory…”

Here are a few items worth reading:

Stay tuned.

Thailand protests: And just like that, we’ve reached a truce

See today’s stories from the WSJ, the AP, the BBC, Reuters, and the NYT. For the tick-tock, see Saksith Saiyasombut’s liveblog.

Meanwhile, I wrote this Quartz post: “Cops giving protesters roses does not mean Thailand’s unrest is over.”

Thailand update: Drone footage provides vivid views of yesterday’s clashes

Last week I wrote a story for Quartz about the increasing use of drone journalism here in Bangkok amid ongoing protests.

At that time, Thai media outlets and others were using the devices to photograph demonstrations around Democracy Monument.

Protests have escalated in recent days, and the drones are providing some vivid footage.

Today Bangkok Pundit linked to two videos that are worth checking out.

Here’s the first, embedded below and on YouTube here, from 3:20 p.m.

And here’s the second, embedded below and on YouTube here, from 6 p.m.

The videos show protesters at a gate leading to Government House. Throughout the day, as you can see, demonstrators tried to breach barriers that the police had set up. Police, time and again, repelled them with tear gas and water cannons.

Meanwhile, I took in the scene in from a pedestrian walkway several hundred meters away; it’s the walkway the drone passes over at about the 2:55 mark in the second video.

Here’re some photos I snapped as tear gas sent protesters scurrying away from the gate that afternoon and early evening.

2013 12 02gh3

2013 12 02 gh

And here’s an image of a wounded protester being trucked away.

2013 12 02gh2

As for the latest today, here are some stories worth checking out. In short, the protests continue. And Yingluck says she’s not stepping down.

As ever, follow me on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

Thailand update: Protesters target state telecoms — and suspected Red Shirts

The AP reports:

A mob of anti-government protesters attacked at least two people they suspected of supporting the current Thai government and smashed the windows of a moving Bangkok bus Saturday in the first eruption of violence after a week of tense street protests.

The mob also smashed the windshield of a taxi carrying people wearing red shirts, a sign of government support.

The violence erupted when the crowd of more than 1,000 people led by university students who oppose the government tried to block people from entering a stadium where supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra were holding a rally.

Embedded above and on YouTube here is a short clip of what appears to the incident in which demonstrators attacked the bus.

Earlier in the day, the anti-government demonstrators rallied at two state-run telecommunications agencies, CAT Teleom and and TOT. Here’s an AP story, and one from Reuters.

Meanwhile, more and more Red Shirts have been gathering at Rajamangala Stadium.

Here’s a photo @caldeiradasilva posted at about 7:30 p.m. tonight:

And finally, a Wall Street Journal story today looks at whether or not the army might stage a coup. The answer, according to analysts, is: probably not.

“The army has learned its lesson from the coup in 2006 and the Red Shirt protests in 2010,” said Panitan Wattanayakorn, a professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University and spokesman in a previous, anti-Thaksin government. “Meddling with politics has cost it support.”

As for tomorrow, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has announced plans to target Government House — the prime minister’s offices — and other locations such as police headquarters and various ministries.

For the latest, follow me on Twitter, and see my Bangkok journalists Twitter list.

Here are 3 maps that show where Bangkok protests are happening—for now, at least

Anti-government protesters have been ratcheting up their rallies in recent days. It’s a fluid situation: Demonstrators often move to various locations in the city throughout the day.

Yesterday they targeted the Police headquarters; today they forced their way into the Army’s HQ.

It can be hard, especially for those not familiar with the geography of the Thai capital, to visualize where these events are occurring. Here are a few maps that should help.

To date, most of the rallies have been happening near Bangkok’s downtown/old city area, with some also taking place near various lower Sukhumvit Road intersections. Of course, that could change at any time.

This map comes via a BBC story yesterday.

2013 11 28 bkk protests map

Meanwhile, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has been providing daily updates and maps. Here’s yesterday’s:

2013 11 29 bangkok protests map

And finally, as I’ve mentioned before, Richard Barrow (@richardbarrow) maintains a map on Google Maps, though it looks like this one hasn’t been updated in a few days.


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

For updates as the situation develops, check out previous post about how to follow the protest news.

And if you have any maps to share, please let me know on Twitter.