Thai politics Thailand

Thailand update: Drone footage provides vivid views of yesterday’s clashes

Last week I wrote a story for Quartz about the increasing use of drone journalism here in Bangkok amid ongoing protests.

At that time, Thai media outlets and others were using the devices to photograph demonstrations around Democracy Monument.

Protests have escalated in recent days, and the drones are providing some vivid footage.

Today Bangkok Pundit linked to two videos that are worth checking out.

Here’s the first, embedded below and on YouTube here, from 3:20 p.m.

And here’s the second, embedded below and on YouTube here, from 6 p.m.

The videos show protesters at a gate leading to Government House. Throughout the day, as you can see, demonstrators tried to breach barriers that the police had set up. Police, time and again, repelled them with tear gas and water cannons.

Meanwhile, I took in the scene in from a pedestrian walkway several hundred meters away; it’s the walkway the drone passes over at about the 2:55 mark in the second video.

Here’re some photos I snapped as tear gas sent protesters scurrying away from the gate that afternoon and early evening.

2013 12 02gh3

2013 12 02 gh

And here’s an image of a wounded protester being trucked away.

2013 12 02gh2

As for the latest today, here are some stories worth checking out. In short, the protests continue. And Yingluck says she’s not stepping down.

As ever, follow me on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

Thai politics Thailand

Thailand update: Protesters target state telecoms — and suspected Red Shirts

The AP reports:

A mob of anti-government protesters attacked at least two people they suspected of supporting the current Thai government and smashed the windows of a moving Bangkok bus Saturday in the first eruption of violence after a week of tense street protests.

The mob also smashed the windshield of a taxi carrying people wearing red shirts, a sign of government support.

The violence erupted when the crowd of more than 1,000 people led by university students who oppose the government tried to block people from entering a stadium where supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra were holding a rally.

Embedded above and on YouTube here is a short clip of what appears to the incident in which demonstrators attacked the bus.

Earlier in the day, the anti-government demonstrators rallied at two state-run telecommunications agencies, CAT Teleom and and TOT. Here’s an AP story, and one from Reuters.

Meanwhile, more and more Red Shirts have been gathering at Rajamangala Stadium.

Here’s a photo @caldeiradasilva posted at about 7:30 p.m. tonight:

And finally, a Wall Street Journal story today looks at whether or not the army might stage a coup. The answer, according to analysts, is: probably not.

“The army has learned its lesson from the coup in 2006 and the Red Shirt protests in 2010,” said Panitan Wattanayakorn, a professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University and spokesman in a previous, anti-Thaksin government. “Meddling with politics has cost it support.”

As for tomorrow, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has announced plans to target Government House — the prime minister’s offices — and other locations such as police headquarters and various ministries.

For the latest, follow me on Twitter, and see my Bangkok journalists Twitter list.

Thai politics Thailand

Here are 3 maps that show where Bangkok protests are happening—for now, at least

Anti-government protesters have been ratcheting up their rallies in recent days. It’s a fluid situation: Demonstrators often move to various locations in the city throughout the day.

Yesterday they targeted the Police headquarters; today they forced their way into the Army’s HQ.

It can be hard, especially for those not familiar with the geography of the Thai capital, to visualize where these events are occurring. Here are a few maps that should help.

To date, most of the rallies have been happening near Bangkok’s downtown/old city area, with some also taking place near various lower Sukhumvit Road intersections. Of course, that could change at any time.

This map comes via a BBC story yesterday.

2013 11 28 bkk protests map

Meanwhile, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has been providing daily updates and maps. Here’s yesterday’s:

2013 11 29 bangkok protests map

And finally, as I’ve mentioned before, Richard Barrow (@richardbarrow) maintains a map on Google Maps, though it looks like this one hasn’t been updated in a few days.

View Protest Areas in Bangkok in November 2013 in a larger map

For updates as the situation develops, check out previous post about how to follow the protest news.

And if you have any maps to share, please let me know on Twitter.

Thai politics Thailand

Thailand protest update: demonstrations move beyond Bangkok

Just briefly: A few stories worth checking out today:

For ongoing updates, keep an eye on The Bangkok Post, The Nation, and Thailand-related stories available by searching Google News. And as I mentioned in a previous post, I suggest checking out my Bangkok journalists Twitter list for more.

Thai politics Thailand

Bangkok protests update: November 26

2013 11 26 front pages

Above: today’s WSJ Asia and International New York Times

A quick update, following yesterday’s post, as protests continue here in Bangkok.

What happened today:

The protesters don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon

The AP reported:

On Tuesday, the main protest group appeared to have converted the Finance Ministry into its headquarters, and declared Tuesday a “rest day,” as protesters erected tents in the parking lot.

And journalist Patrick Winn Tweeted:

The US issued a statement

The statement, posted on the US Embassy in Bangkok’s Web site, says:

The U.S. Government is concerned about the rising political tension in Thailand and is following the ongoing demonstrations in Bangkok closely. We urge all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint, and respect the rule of law. Violence and the seizure of public or private property are not acceptable means of resolving political differences.

We call upon all sides to uphold international norms that guarantee freedom of the press and the safety of journalists. The United States firmly believes all parties should work together to resolve differences through peaceful dialogue in ways that strengthen democracy and rule of law.

As long-time friends of Thailand, we strongly support the Thai nation and its people during this period.

Sample rhetoric

Below: an image snapped by photojournalist George Henton at a protest site. He Tweeted:

A translation, via Kaewmala on Twitter, is as follows:

“Ungrateful Traitors, cohorts of the evil Khmer Hu Sen, destroy the nation. Death only punishment”

Stay tuned.

As ever, follow me on Twitter for updates.

Bangkok HOWTO Thai politics Thailand

Bangkok protests: What happened today and how to follow the news

Anti-government protesters, whose rallies I’ve written about before, stepped up their demonstrations today. Above is AP video of scuffles that broke out with police.

Here’s a recap of what happened today:

Other stories:

Regarding economic implications, The WSJ quotes an analyst as saying:

“Investor sentiment on Thailand is in the doldrums at the moment,” said Barnabas Gan, an analyst covering the country for OCBC. “The current protests right now basically confirmed the pessimism that global investors have” over the country, he said.

There’s more from Bloomberg. And The NYT has some color from the Finance Ministry:

By late afternoon, protesters could be seen napping and snacking in two of the ministry’s conference rooms, but they had not yet penetrated the main offices. Riot police have been deployed in Bangkok for several weeks, but no police officers were visible in the compound.

Mr. Suthep said protesters had chosen to occupy the Finance Ministry because it is at the heart of the government.

“From now on, this government can no longer transfer money,” he said. “Not a single coin will be used by the Thaksin regime anymore.”

Monitoring the protest sites

Richard Barrow maintains a Google map of Bangkok protest areas:

View Protest Areas in Bangkok in November 2013 in a larger map

I also suggest following Richard on Twitter for updates.

My Twitter lists

Blogs to watch

Advice for US citizens

The US Embassy’s American Citizen Services Tweeted this tonight:

Follow me on Twitter

As always, follow me on Twitter for the latest.

Thai politics Thailand

My favorite chart illustrating trends in Thai governance over the decades

2013 11 20 thai constitution

A study of Thai politics in the 20th century reveals that the country has continuously alternated between democratic and military systems of government. As I mentioned earlier on Twitter, yesterday’s Constitution Court verdict — that the government’s attempt to make the Senate fully elected is unconstitutional — provides an opportunity to share my favorite graphic related to the country’s governance. (The image is available on Wikipedia’s Constitution of Thailand page, copyright Patiwat Panurach.)

As you’ll see above, Thailand’s many constitutions and charters through the years have had varying numbers of elected and appointed executives; political turbulence surrounding such changes has been the norm for Thailand. It’s no different today.

For more on the court verdict, I suggest this Wall Street Journal story. There’s more from The AP, BBC, The New York Times, and Reuters.

Thai politics Thailand

Thailand protests: anti-amnesty push morphs into an effort to topple Yingluck

2013 11 12 rally
Outside the Terminal 21 shopping mall

2013 11 12rally2
Marching down Sukhumvit road

2013 11 12rally3
Heading toward Phloenchit

Above are a few photos I snapped yesterday as protesters marched near the Asoke intersection here in Bangkok.

A few thoughts:

The protests began last week and targeted a proposed amnesty bill that could have led to the return of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Though the Thai Senate last night rejected the bill, the demonstrations continue. In fact, an opposition leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, has now called for a general strike from Nov. 13-15 (tomorrow through Friday).

“We will escalate our fight by inviting the people to rigorously carry out civil disobedience throughout the country,” he told the Associated Press. The AP continues:

He called for a three-day closure of businesses and schools to allow people to join the strike; a withholding of taxes that allegedly are used for corruption; the display of the national flag; and the blowing of whistles, which have become a noisy tool of protest, near government leaders.

So why are the demonstrations continuing despite the legislation’s demise?

For one thing, the lower house can resubmit the bill after 180 days. But organizers surely couldn’t keep rallies going for six months anyway.

Instead, the protests aren’t really about the bill anymore. Indeed, a refrain among the demonstrators I saw yesterday was “awwk bpai” (ออกไป), which means “get out.” As in, it’s time for the government of Prime Minister Yingluck — Thaksin’s younger sister, of course — to go.

As analyst Thitinan Pongsudhirak told the New York Times yesterday, “The opposition to the amnesty bill has been deep and wide…It has now escalated into an effort to overthrow the government.”

What next?

Regarding protests yesterday, Reuters says:

More than 10,000 riot police were stationed around main government buildings near the rallies, which are stoking fears of clashes between rival groups, the kind of violence that has sunk governments in the past.

While the AP concludes:

Although the latest protests are the strongest against Yingluck’s government, it is unclear if they are sustainable, especially in view of the overwhelming support that her government has in Parliament.

As ever, follow me on Twitter for developments.

Thai politics Thailand

An update on Thailand’s amnesty bill — and the potential for protests early next month

The WSJ reports today:

An assembly of civil society groups has threatened to mobilize rallies across Thailand if the government pushes through a proposed amnesty bill that could open the door for deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to re-enter the country a free man.

The draft legislation has recently been altered in a way that could clear past legal convictions against Mr. Thaksin, who was handed a two-year prison sentence in absentia in 2008 for abuse of power.


Should the newly altered bill make it to a final vote, it could spark a fresh round of political chaos in a country frequently mired in street protests.

The legislation is still subject to several rounds of debate in the House and Senate before it becomes law. In the meantime, eight anti-Thaksin groups said they would meet this Sunday to decide the timing of mass street demonstrations planned for early November. The exact time and venue have yet to be announced.

Worth a read.

Thai politics Thailand

Thailand Rubber Farmers’ Protests Continue

Reuters reports today:

Thailand faced pressure on Friday to end a two-week protest by rubber farmers after violent overnight clashes between riot police and a group of protesters who hurled rocks and bottles filled with an acidic liquid.

Police fired tear gas to disperse a group of protesters in Prachuap Khiri Khan province on a main road from Bangkok to the southern beach resort region of Phuket. At least 21 policemen were injured, authorities said.

“Acid and rocks were thrown at police, leaving one officer with a serious injury. Orders were issued to use teargas after a group of youths, who were not part of the protest, fired at police,” Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok said on Friday.

For more, see stories from The AP, AFP, Al Jazeera, and The Bangkok Post.

And for an interesting look at Thailand’s rubber market, see this Bangkok Pundit post:

One thing that has surprised BP regarding the recent protests by rubber farmers is when analyzing the issue that little coverage is given to the actual rubber market. Successive governments have provided price support/subsidies for rice and rubber, but in slightly different forms. BP views there is a key reason for this and that is the markets for rice and rubber are quite different. This issue seems to be glossed over. One big difference is the existence of synthetic rubber.