Thailand protests: three observations

Tens of thousands of red-shirt (anti-government) protesters descended on Government House here in Bangkok today to demand that Prime Minister Abhisit step down. I spent a few hours there speaking with demonstrators and taking in the scene.

Some observations, a few of which I mentioned in various tweets earlier today:

  1. The crowd was so large that it was difficult to negotiate the area. Some estimates put the number of protesters at 60,000 or even 100,000. It was so crowded near the main stage, for example, that it took me twenty minutes to move a distance of just a few hundred meters. It was difficult to walk around in many areas due to the volume of people.
  2. Emotions were running high. Speakers gave impassioned speeches. The crowded chanted. And sang songs. And rattled plastic clappers.
  3. While the overall mood was pro-Thaksin, some people told me they were there to demand democracy, not necessarily to support the exiled PM. Signs read “We want democracy,” “Return the power to the people” and “Where’s the justice?” Many people wore shirts that read “Truth today: it’s time for change in Thailand.”

    One man, a 34-year-old taxi driver from Bangkok, told me that he didn’t like Thaksin, in fact, but that he wanted a change in government. “I want democracy but I didn’t come for Thaksin,” he said. “I want democracy…I don’t like Abhisit. He came to power not through democracy.”

For ongoing updates the protests, you can search Google News or consult the Bangkok Post or Nation newspapers.

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