Following Thailand protest news: blogs, my Twitter lists, local media, and more

2014 02 09 bkk shutdown

Since I’m now in Singapore covering technology news across Southeast Asia, my posts about the ongoing unrest in Thailand will probably be limited in the weeks and months ahead.

So, as I’ve done in the past, I wanted to offer suggestions for following the news as things develop.

Blogs

Twitter

Google News search

Local media

Wikipedia

‘Bangkok Shutdown’ update: Court says government can delay Feb. 2 election — but will it?

2014 01 25 bkk post

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled on Friday that contentious elections set for February 2 can be postponed, adding further pressure on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government to delay the vote, as antigovernment protests continue.

And:

The court said Thailand’s constitution doesn’t prohibit postponing an election in the case of an emergency or if there are other obstructions to the polls going ahead safely. It said that if the Election Commission considers it necessary to postpone the ballot, it should propose a delay to the government, which could then seek a royal decree to postpone the vote or set a new date.

And:

Varathep Rattanakorn, a minister in the prime minister’s office, told local media that the government will have to study the court’s verdict on delaying the election to determine whether it was an order or a suggestion.

But Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, one of Thailand’s five election commissioners, told reporters in southern Thailand, where he was meeting with local officials, that the commission could meet with the government on Monday. He said he expects to government to seek a new royal decree by Tuesday to scrub the Feb. 2 election date.

Reuters says:

One election commissioner, speaking to Reuters, said the vote could still go ahead on February 2 if Yingluck’s government dug in its heels.

“We will ask to meet with the prime minister and her government on Monday to discuss a new election date,” Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said. “If the government doesn’t agree to postpone the election, then the election will go ahead.”

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post says:

The caretaker government will postpone the Feb 2 election if anti-government protesters end their rallies, caretaker PM’s Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn said on Friday.

The protesters must also promise not to obstruct the new poll and there must be no boycott of it, he said.

But postponing the poll would be futile if it continues to face disruptions, Mr Varathep said. The Election Commission (EC) will invite caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to discuss the poll postponement on Monday after the court also ruled that the premier should discuss a new election date with the EC chairman.

There are also stories from the New York Times, the AP, and the BBC.

And Bangkok Pundit has a post looking at what might come next:

We have no on-the-record confirmation, but BP would not be surprised if the government agreed to delay the election. The main reason is that timing-wise, the parliament would be convened around the sound time regardless of the election being delayed or going ahead…

And:

However, this is contingent on the Democrats participating in the election and then the PDRC going home – or at least limiting their protests to more defined areas and stopping obstruction of government offices. BP expects Puea Thai to either approach PDRC and the Democrats again to see what their position is.* If no change then, what would be the point of postponing the election?

‘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.

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.

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.

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: