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Thai politics Thailand

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:

Categories
Misc.

Red shirt protests in Bangkok: day one

red_shirts.jpg

Thailand’s anti-government red shirt protesters began gathering here in Bangkok today. All in all, it was a surprisingly quiet day.

The demonstrations, as we know, are expected to culminate with — red shirts say — a protest comprising one million participants on Sun., March 14. Many observers, however, doubt that the reds will be able to muster such a large showing.

Many people here in Bangkok expected the day to be chaotic. Businesses closed early. Schools cancelled classes. And while there were small demonstrations in some parts of city, it was largely a day like any other in central Bangkok.

But more and more demonstrators are expected to begin arriving in Bangkok tomorrow (Sat. the 13th).

This Bangkok Post story summarizes the day’s events. And the Nation has some images here. For some analysis, there’s this story from Reuters. And here’s some context from AP. Meanwhile, Global Voices has this extensive post with background info and links to several online resources.

Stay tuned…

(Image source: Bangkok Post.)

Categories
Misc.

(New) anti-government protests in Bangkok

Here are some recent stories about the newest wave of anti-government protests ((The term “anti-government,” of course, doesn’t mean what it did a few months ago. Before PM Abhisit assumed office, that phrase was applied to the PAD protesters. Now it’s used to describe the so called “red shirts” — the UDD and other Thaksin supporters.)) here in Bangkok (the most recent is the first story):

AFP: “Thai protesters march on foreign ministry

Red-clad protesters marched on Thailand’s foreign ministry Wednesday, hours after the prime minister evaded demonstrators besieging his offices for a second day in their bid to unseat the government.

Up to 10,000 supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra dressed in their trademark crimson shirts surrounded Bangkok’s Government House compound Tuesday demanding fresh elections, with many camping outside overnight.

AP: “Thousands demand dissolution of Thai parliament

Thousands of protesters surrounded the prime minister’s office Tuesday demanding Thailand’s parliament be dissolved and new elections held, the latest challenge to the two-month old coalition government.

The rally by demonstrators allied with exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra came three days before Thailand is to host the annual summit of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The crowd swelled to about 20,000 people as dusk approached, police said.

VOA: “Former Thai PM Supporters Hold Rally in Bangkok

Government opponents and supporters of Thailand’s former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, launched a rally by blockading the government’s main administrative building and calling for Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to resign. The rallies appear to be part of a new strategy by Thaksin supporters to weaken the Abhisit government that came to power in December.

Categories
Misc.

Politics in Thailand: battle for the parliament

WSJ: “Rival Thai Parties Vie to Form Government

Thailand’s rival political parties are racing to form the country’s next government this week, with the opposition Democrat Party claiming it has won the support of enough legislators to form a ruling coalition — a move its leaders say could ease the political turmoil that has mounted in recent months.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said Saturday his party had won the support of as many as 250 members of parliament, more than the 224 seats required to have a majority in the Thai legislature. Party spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks said Sunday the Democrats had recruited 260 lawmakers for a new coalition.

If the Democrats succeed in creating and maintaining a new coalition with a majority of seats, 44-year-old Mr. Abhisit is likely to be chosen as Thailand’s next prime minister.

However, it’s not certain Mr. Abhisit and the Democrats can deliver this majority. Followers of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra also are trying to form a government, reigniting a battle for control of Thailand, one of Southeast Asia’s largest economies and major production hub for multinationals such as Toyota Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co.

AP: “Thai opposition may take power, army’s aid hinted

Thailand’s main opposition party called for an emergency parliament session Monday to prove its majority and form the next government — a surprising reversal of fortunes that some suggested was engineered by the politically potent military.

Democrat Party Secretary-General Suthep Thuagsuban filed a formal request for convening Parliament to demonstrate it has the support of enough legislators to form the next government and end months of political paralysis.

This Southeast Asian nation has been gripped by political chaos for three months, with protesters seizing the prime minister’s office and overrunning the capital’s two airports for about a week in a bid to topple the government, accusing it of being a proxy of fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Categories
Misc.

Bangkok airport to reopen

Here’s the latest news from Bangkok:

— Yesterday (Tues.) a court ruled that Thailand’s governing party must disband. The prime minister has now been forced from office. (Demonstrators had said they wouldn’t leave the airport until the PM quits.)

— Anti-government protesters announced yesterday that they’ll cease their protests at the international airport today (Wed.). (Demonstrations at the domestic airport, Don Mueang, continue.)

— Local media reports says flights will resume at Bangkok’s international airport as early as today, though it’s unclear when normal operations will resume. Some 300,000 foreign travelers are still stranded here.

Following are some media reports with more info:

Nation: “THAI resumes flights at Suvarnabhumi

Thai Airways International is flying six special flights from Suvarnabhumi on Wednesday, the first since the airport was shut down on November 25.

AP: “Thai airports reopening after PM ousted by court

Victorious anti-government protesters lifted their siege of Bangkok’s two airports Wednesday while leaders of the ousted government named a caretaker prime minister to lead the politically chaotic kingdom.

The country’s immediate crisis, which virtually severed Thailand’s air links to the outside world for a week, appeared to be over and the People’s Alliance for Democracy said it was ending six months of daily anti-government protests. But the alliance warned it would be on the streets again if a new government tried to return to its past policies.

“The partial opening can be as soon as today,” said Serirat Prasutanond, acting president for Airports of Thailand Pcl, the operator. “It will likely be outbound flights from Thai Airways because they have aircraft parked here.”

Nation: “Suvarnabhumi to reopen in 1-2 weeks

Airports of Thailand Plc expects to reopen Suvarnabhumi Airport in 1 week at the earliest and 2 weeks at the latest, said the company’s acting president Serirat Prasutanond.

Other stories:

AFP: “Well-heeled tourists flee Thailand on private jets

As most grumbling holiday-makers wait frustrated in hotels after airport-based protests stranded them in Thailand, the wealthy are simply slipping out of the “Land of Smiles” by private jets.

Charter airline companies are seeing their bookings soar despite the enormous cost, after demonstrators seized Bangkok’s main Suvarnabhumi international airport and the smaller domestic hub Don Mueang last week.

Protesters began clearing out of the airport on Wednesday after the premier was forced from office by a court, but it will take weeks to clear the backlog of an estimated 350,000 people who missed flights.

For some perspective on what the protests mean for Thailand’s future, check out this WSJ story:

Thailand Protests End as Prime Minister Is Ousted

Antigovernment protesters promised to end a crippling weeklong siege of Thailand’s main airports after a court ruling forced Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to step down and disbanded his government’s key parties for electoral fraud.

The pledge to lift the airport blockades comes as a relief for the more than 300,000 desperate international travelers stranded in Thailand, which has suffered severe damage to its economy and its reputation as a global tourist destination.

But the political stalemate that has paralyzed the Southeast Asian country of 65 million for months is no closer to resolution — a troubling omen for it as well as some other developing countries around the world.

Thailand’s fundamental problem — mirrored to differing degrees in China, India and other emerging economies — is a seemingly unbridgeable divide between relatively well-off urbanites, including many of the protesters at Bangkok’s airports, and millions of poorer rural citizens who have long felt left out of the country’s power structure.

And this Economist story includes some details on the political landscape and what may come next:

Ousting the prime minister“:

In the end it was Thailand’s Constitutional Court that sent the prime minister packing. Somchai Wongsawat resigned on Tuesday December 2nd after his party and two others were dissolved for electoral fraud. But the noose around his neck was the week-long seizure of Bangkok’s two airports by opposition protesters, who have plunged the capital into chaos and sown fear of wider unrest. They may leave now, allowing Bangkok’s airport to resume flights in time for a busy tourist season, and to start clearing a backlog of over 300,000 stranded foreign tourists. But the political upheaval is not over, and damage to Thailand’s battered economy and international reputation may well continue.

(All emphasis mine.)

For ongoing news, check out:
The Nation
The Bangkok Post
Bangkok Pundit
2Bangkok

And finally, newley.com has been receiving a lot of traffic over the last week as folks search for updates on the airport closure. A reminder: if you’d like to receive updates when I post here, you can subscribe to my RSS feed. In addition, I’ve been posting shorter snippets on Twitter here.