Bangkok Protests: Thursday Update

When news spread last night that Thailand’s Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej was to give a radio address at 7:30 a.m. today, rumors swirled that he would use the occasion to announce his resignation. Instead, he refused to cave in. “Don’t even think I am going to quit,” he said. “The country needs a leader, and the world is watching us.”

As protesters occupied Government House for the 10th straight day, Samak proposed a nation-wide referendum to find a way forward.

The state of emergency continues, and more and more countries are warning their citizens to exercise caution here — or not to come at all. The majority of Bangkok is unaffected by the demonstrations. Still, there are concerns about what the turmoil means for the Thai tourism industry.

Here’s a roundup of the latest media coverage:

New York Times: “Thai Leader Promises Referendum”

Economist: “An emergency in Thailand: The army is called in as pro- and anti-government protesters clash”

Bloomberg: “Thailand May Miss Tourism Targets as Unrest Spurs Cancellations”

Reuters: “Defiant Thai PM refuses to quit”

AP: “Thai protest leader wants to reduce voters’ power”

Wall Street Journal: “Thailand’s New (Old) Politics”

Telegraph: “Bank steps in to support the baht as Thailand plagued by political unrest”

Notable blog posts:

Bangkok Pundit: “Resign, No; Dissolution, No; Referendum, Yes UPDATE”

2Bangkok: “PAD’s ‘final war'”


Audio Slide Show: State of Emergency in Bangkok

Following my previous effort, here’s a 2-minute, 18-second audio slide show I put together after spending some time at Government House today. That’s where PAD protesters are demonstrating against Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Early today a protester was killed and several were seriously injured, which prompted the government to declare a state of emergency.

Despite the fact that gatherings of more than five people have been prohibited, the protest felt much like a carnival: protesters clad in yellow — a color that represents their beloved King — stood in front of a large stage and listened to various speeches. Others relaxed under tarps and clapped, chatted, and snacked. Riot police stood by a few blocks away.

“We are fighting against the tyranny of Thaksin and Samak,” one protester told me. “We are willing to give up our lives for freedom.”

(Note: Those of you reading this via my rss feed will need to click through to view the slide slow on my site.)

My audio slide show from last week can be found here.


Thai PM Imposes State of Emergency

A state of emergency has been imposed here in Bangkok after a protester was killed and several were seriously wounded in clashes between anti-government and pro-government demonstrators early this morning.

For ongoing coverage, check out:

The Nation

The Bangkok Post

Here’s a story from the Straits Times: “Emergency in Bangkok: At least one killed by PAD gunfire in pitched battle between pro and anti-government mobs.”

And here’s an AP video report on YouTube: “Thai PM Declares Emergency in Capital”


Bangkok Protests: Monday Update

Here’s a round-up of media coverage regarding the ongoing protests here in Thailand.

The most recent news:

— There was a small explosion at a police booth here in Bangkok early today (Monday). There were no injuries.

— The airport in Phuket has re-opened.

— And Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who protesters say is a puppet of ousted PM Thaksin, says he won’t resign. Protesters say they won’t relent until Samak steps down.

New York Times/IHT: “Thai Government Backers Take to Streets”

Thailand’s political crisis entered a more delicate and volatile phase on Sunday when government supporters took to the streets as a counterweight to the antigovernment protesters who have occupied the prime minister’s compound for almost a week.

Thai academic Thitinan Pongsudhirak, in the Bangkok Post: “Tyranny of a minority”

In other civilised countries, provocation and occupation of the seat of government would bring swift enforcement of the law. The PAD’s revolting rampage has been met with tame official responses.

AFP: “Thai PM searches for end to protests after rejecting new polls”

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej sought a peaceful solution Monday to end a week of anti-government protests, after again rejecting calls for him to resign or hold new elections.

Thousands of protesters remained camped at the main government complex in central Bangkok early Monday, after storming through the gates seven days ago accusing Samak of acting as a puppet for ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Samak called an emergency session of parliament on Sunday, but the debate failed to produce any plan for ending the protests.

Wall Street Journal: “Thai Leader Vows to Remain Despite Crisis”

Thailand’s besieged government is struggling to defuse a political crisis after waves of antigovernment protests spread beyond the country’s capital, forcing closures of several regional airports and disrupting rail services.

The escalating political confrontation threatens to destabilize the popularly elected government of Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and could begin to undermine the country’s economy, especially the vital tourism sector, which is vulnerable to any prolonged disruption of air travel.

Reuters: “Small bomb explodes near occupied Thai Govt House”

A small bomb exploded in a central Bangkok police booth on Monday as a stand-off between the Thai Prime Minister and protesters occupying his office entered its seventh day with no sign of either side backing down.

The blast, shortly after 1 a.m. (1800 GMT on Sunday), shattered nearby windows but caused no injuries.

And the BBC’s Jonathan Head has this analysis: “Rifts behind Thailand’s political crisis”

It has been nearly two years since an unexpected military coup deposed then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and appeared to freeze Thailand’s democratic evolution in its tracks.

The country has experienced 15 months of benign military rule, the drafting of a new constitution, and a general election which returned a party run by Mr Thaksin’s allies to office.

Yet there is still a sense of unending crisis, of a country still deeply polarised over the former prime minister and his attempts to transform Thailand.

The occupation of the main government offices in central Bangkok this week by protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has underscored just how difficult it is to end this turbulence.

For ongoing news, check out Bangkok Pundit. And my audio slide show from last Wednesday contains some images and sounds from the protests.