‘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.

Photos from ‘Bangkok Shutdown,’ day 1

Here are some photos I took of today’s protests.

The Bangkok Post has more images.

Meanwhile, the WSJ reports:

After turning central Bangkok into a flag-waving sea of protest Monday, antigovernment activists now say they are preparing to take their campaign to the next level by seizing Thailand’s stock exchange.

The WSJ also has a liveblog.

The NYT says:

Bangkok’s central commercial district was swarmed by antigovernment protesters on Monday as part of a so-called shutdown of the city, a largely peaceful demonstration that cut most traffic to Thailand’s costliest real estate and most prestigious addresses.

The protest was the boldest move in two months of protests against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Bloomberg reports:

About 80,000 Thai protesters blocked major roads in Bangkok, disrupting traffic and increasing pressure on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign.

Note: Blog posts may be sporadic in the days ahead, but you can follow me on Twitter for more frequent updates.

And don’t forget about my public Twitter list of about 100 journalists and news organizations in Bangkok. Richard Barrow is especially prolific on Twitter, and provides travel-related updates.

Stay tuned.

Map of planned ‘Bangkok Shutdown’ protest sites

Here’s a map, courtesy of The Nation newspaper, of planned rally locations for protests tomorrow, Monday Jan. 13:

2013 11 29 bangkok protests map2

There’s also a larger, printable PDF version.

(Via @Kelly_Macnamara.)

UPDATE: Here’s another map, via Richard Barrow.

As ‘Bangkok shutdown’ approaches, US Embassy advises keeping cash, food on hand

In a security message today, the US Embassy in Bangkok said:

This is to advise and update U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Thailand that political activists intend to hold simultaneous mass rallies at key intersections and other locations in Bangkok beginning on Monday, January 13th. The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai will remain open for consular services.

The announced January 13 mass rally sites are at major intersections throughout Bangkok, including Asok-Sukhumvit, Pathumwan, Lumpini, Victory Monument, Ratchaprasong, Lat Prao, and Silom and at the Chaeng Watthana government complex. Protests may occur in other areas with little prior notice. Subsequent events are unpredictable, although protest leaders have declared their plan to continue with rallies after January 13.

Protests are expected to occur elsewhere in Thailand, including near Chiang Mai University scheduled for Sunday afternoon, January 12.

While protests have been generally peaceful over the last two months, some have resulted in injury and death. Even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can turn confrontational, and can escalate into violence without warning. You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings or protests. Be alert and aware of your surroundings and pay attention to local news and media reports.

These demonstrations can result in significant traffic disruptions and delays. When they occur, and especially on January 13, you should allow extra time when travelling throughout the city or to airports. Consider public transportation alternatives.

We advise you to plan ahead. It is prudent to ensure you have a week’s supply of cash, keep your mobile communications devices charged, and stock a two week supply of essential items such as food, water, and medicine.

Meanwhile, Thai Airways had this to say yesterday:

The Wall Street Journal has more details on what demonstrators are calling “Bangkok Shutdown”:

Mr. Suthep, who had been leading anti-government protests since November, said the shutdown will kick off Monday morning but has not specified when his battle against Ms. Yingluck will end.

Thai authorities predict that the protests will affect at least one million commuters and more than one hundred transit routes, especially in inner Bangkok.

City officials have instructed about 140 government schools to close on Monday.

The Ministry of Transport has urged Bangkok residents to use public transportation, including the city’s elevated train, subway, buses and boats, to avoid getting stuck in gridlock caused by the rallies and blockades. To relieve traffic congestion, the ministry said it will provide free parking in at least 30 locations so commuters can connect to public transportation. The city’s bus, boat, and train systems will also run more frequently to accommodate an increase in passenger numbers, which are expected to nearly double.

Meanwhile, there’s this news today:

Some favorite albums, books, TV shows, movies, and in-depth stories from 2013

Here’s a look back at some of my favorites from last year.

Albums

My pick: “Modern Vampires of the City,” by Vampire Weekend.

Here’s “Obvious Bicycle“:

And “Diane Young“:

Runner-up album:

Beta Love,” by Ra Ra Riot. Here’s the title track.

Honorable mentions: Sky Ferreira’s “Night Time, My Time,” Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories,” and Lorde’s “Pure Heroine.”

Books

Of the books I read last year, two stand out, not least because they were written by pals.

First: Matt Gross’s “The Turk Who Loved Apples: And Other Tales of Losing My Way Around the World.”

2014 01 08 turk who loved apples

This may not come as a surprise, since I’ve written about Matt’s work before.

The New York Times called the book “a joyful meditation on the spontaneity and unpredictability of the traveling life,” and said:

Gross ruminates on the loneliness of the road, the evanescent friendships that occasionally blossom into something deeper, the pleasures of wandering through cities without a map. Now settled in Brooklyn with his wife and daughters, he leaves little doubt that all his years of near-constant travel have only whetted his appetite for more. “The world,” he writes, has become “a massively expanding network of tiny points where anything at all could happen, and within each point another infinite web of possibilities.”

Worth checking out.

And second: “The Accidental Playground: Brooklyn Waterfront Narratives of the Undesigned and Unplanned,” by Dan Campo.

2014 01 08 accidental playground

The Times included the book in a piece called “Suggested Reading for de Blasio,” and wrote:

Daniel Campo, a former New York City planner, considers the serendipitous development of Williamsburg and concludes: “In contrast to urban space produced through conventional planning and design, the accidental playground that evolved on the North Brooklyn waterfront generated vitality through immediate and largely unmeditated action. The waterfront was there for the claiming, and people went out and did just that without asking for permission, holding meetings or making plans.”

Indeed, it’s worth a read.

TV shows

2014 01 09 breaking bad

There can be only one.

Movies

I haven’t yet seen many of the year’s most talked-about films, but I liked “Gravity” and “This is the End.” 2013 films I still intend to watch: “12 Years a Slave,” “The Act of Killing,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and “Computer Chess.”

Stories

And finally, here are some in-depth stories, blog posts, reviews, and other pieces of writing I liked this year:

    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.

    As always, you can follow me on Twitter for the latest.

    12 Links

    Some Thailand-related, some not:

    1. Mike Tyson Explores KierkegaardThe Wall Street Journal
    2. How Y’all, Youse and You Guys TalkNew York Times dialect map
    3. As New Services Track Habits, the E-Books Are Reading YouThe New York Times
    4. Professional soccer clubs are great entertainment—and terrible investments — Quartz
    5. Asia Foundation survey – Part 1: Who are the Thai protesters? — Bangkok Pundit
    6. The blog is dead, long live the blog — by Jason Kottke; more here
    7. Earth Wind Map — “a visualization of global weather conditions”
    8. Who has the hardest World Cup 2014 draw?The Guardian
    9. Things fitting perfectly into other things — http://thingsfittingperfectlyintothings.tumblr.com
    10. If Premier League Team Names Were Based On Their Logos — BuzzFeed
    11. A Family of Anchormen — Ron Burgundy at NewYorker.com
    12. Video embedded above and on YouTube here: “David Thibault – Elvis – Blue Christmas.”

    (Previous link round-ups are available via the links tag.)

    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.

    In editorials, the WSJ and NYT criticize Thailand’s anti-government protesters

    Those among Thailand’s anti-government demonstrators who care what foreigners think about their efforts to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra may want to avert their eyes from editorials that ran in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times on Monday.

    In a piece with the headline “Thailand’s Disloyal Opposition,” The WSJ said:

    Faced with almost certain defeat at the polls, the Democrats have decided to pursue power by making the country ungovernable. Such behavior is the definition of a disloyal opposition, and the protesters use the word “insurrection” to define their movement. While they pay lip service to reforming the democratic system, at other times they demand that the monarchy install a new leader and that democracy give way to rule by the elite.

    And:

    So far the pro-Thaksin rural population has remained relatively quiet, but they are seething with anger. They are capable of mobilizing far bigger protests to defend their elected representatives should that become necessary.

    And finally:

    The Democrats’ claims to represent the will of the people, but their leaders are bent on returning to power with or without the support of a majority. With such an opposition, Thailand’s democracy will continue to suffer.

    Meanwhile, The NYT noted:

    Mr. Suthep and his followers — who are mostly from the capital, Bangkok, and represent the middle class and economic elite of the country — are playing a cynical and dangerous game. They have concluded that there is no way the Democrat Party, which has lost every election since 1992, can win against Ms. Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party, whose populist policies like free health care and subsidies for rice farmers has earned it the loyalty of many voters, especially those in northern and northeastern Thailand. If they manage to depose the Ms. Yingluck’s government, the supporters of Pheu Thai will likely take to the streets as they did in 2010.

    The theme of both pieces: The protesters are subverting democracy, and their efforts will only lead to more turmoil in the long run.