Recent Thailand stories

Some recent Thailand stories of note:

Thai politics Thailand

Thailand: some news stories since May 19

Here are a few news stories that have caught my eye since the events of May 19 here in Bangkok. ((As a reminder, here are my images of the Rajaprasong intersection aftermath.))

As ever, a link is not an endorsement, but these should provide some interesting reading. And as I recently asked on Twitter, if you’ve seen a single news story or other work of journalism that you think does an especially good job of illustrating Thailand’s political crisis, please let me know.

I welcome feedback — newley at gmail dot com — and comments below. ((I may not be able to reply to all email, but I certainly try. Also, regarding comments, I generally only approve comments here that I feel add to the conversation in a constructive way.))

(Thanks to BP for pointing to many of these items.)

Bangkok Thai politics Thailand

Rogue army general Seh Daeng shot

Khattiya Sawasdipol — the rogue army general and red shirt leader better known as “Seh Daeng” — was shot in the head here in Bangkok last night. It’s unclear who is responsible for the shooting. He is in the hospital and is in critical condition.

Seh Daeng, whose nickname means “Commander Red,” is sympathetic to the red shirts and has been quite visible at the protest site, particularly near the bamboo barricade in Silom.

He has made provocative statements in the past, threatening violence against various figures and even recently falling out with and being marginalized by fellow red shirt leaders.

Tom Fuller of the IHT/NYT was interviewing Seh Daeng at the time the general was shot. Here’s the story. And here’s an accompanying photo gallery.

As you’ll recall, the government announced on Wed. that army forces would move to seal off the protest site at 6 p.m. yesterday. Authorities said that they would shut off power supplies, water, mobile phone service, and public transport at this time.

I was at Rajaprasong — where the main stage is set up — and toured Phetburi Rd., soi Chidlom, Sarasin Rd., and Silom between roughly 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. No army troops were visible then. (I posted a series of Tweets, and a few images, in real time last night.)

But soon Seh Daeng would be shot in Lumphini Park, on the southern edge of the protest site. And there further clashes broke out throughout the evening.

Afterwards, I made my back up to Rajaprasong, and although the power had been cut, the red shirt protests continued, thanks to electricity from generators.

For photos from the evening, check out Austin’s post, which includes an image of Seh Daeng not long before he was shot.

And for the latest info, here’s an AP story from today. And here’s a story from BBC News.

As ever, stay tuned. It seems likely that there will be additional clashes.

Bangkok Thai politics Thailand

Images from red shirt demonstrations at Rajaprasong last week (and the latest news)

Below are some images of the red shirt demonstrations that I snapped on Friday, May 7. I haven’t had a chance to post these photos until now, but I thought they’d be helpful in providing a sense of how things looked at the red shirts’ protest site as of several days ago.

But first, the latest news: The government said today (Wed.) that at midnight tonight, it will cut off water, electricity, phone services, public transportation, and food deliveries to the Rajaprasong area in order to force red shirt protesters to disperse.

Here’s an NYT story with more details. And here’s a story from the BBC, as well as one from Reuters. For some analysis, I suggest checking out this post from BP about the current state of affairs.

On to the images from Friday. As I noted on Twitter at the time ((Yes, I also tweeted a Seh Daeng sighting…)), the red shirt protesters appeared as dug in — and as resolute — as ever. You get the sense, walking around, that — as they’ve shown — they’re there to stay, at least until they get what they (or the red shirt leaders) want.

The protest site, as I’ve told others, resembles a massive tent city. It is a demonstration site, yes. But it is also a village in and of itself. There are facilities for sleeping, bathing, eating, and sanitation. There are red shirt “guards” who control roads leading to and within the site (see image below).

There are tents with TVs and DVD players set up, where footage of the April 10 clashes are played on a loop. There are foot massage services. And in addition to every manner of red shirt merchandise being on sale, there are even mobile phone charging services (see image below).

The bamboo barricade, near Silom, wasn’t heavily manned when I was there; most demonstrators had pulled back several hundred meters away, toward Rajaprasong. Below are several photos; there are a few more in the complete Flickr photoset.

Stage at Rajaprasong

Shelter in Rajaprasong

People in Rajaprasong, outside CentralWorld mall

Improvised shelter at Rajaprasong, outside CentralWorld mall

Sign at Rajaprasong

Mobile phone charging service at Rajaprasong

Food deliver at Rajaprasong

Red shirt "guards"

Barrier in Silom

Barrier in Silom

Bangkok Thai politics Thailand

Red shirts and Thai government: still at an impasse

Red Shirt leaders say they won’t leave the Rajaprasong protest site ((Again, Bangkok protest site maps are here and here. And my photos from Rajaprasong and elsewhere are here (May 1), here (April 6), and here (April 4).)) until an exact date for potential new elections is set. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva earlier proposed Nov. 14 for a new poll. ((Interestingly, I noticed earlier today that there is already a Wikipedia page called Thai general election, 2010.))

But the red shirts say they want to ensure that the Democrats’ coalition parties are on board with the plan, and the reds point out that only the election commission, not the PM, can call new elections. Red Shirt leaders also say they want to know the exact date that Parliament will be dissolved, which would determine the date for a new poll.

Meanwhile, the PAD — the yellow shirt group that shut down Bangkok’s international airport for a week in Nov. 2008 — have voiced their displeasure with Abhisit’s plan. They say he should step down if he cannot enforce the rule of law, and that he shouldn’t give in to the Reds’ demands.

Earlier, there was a sense that the red shirts might take the deal, and that it would be a few days until they dispersed. Not anymore.

Here are stories about the current state of affairs from the BBC, WSJ, and Reuters.



Dear friends: I have just launched a new site, It’s designed to provide background info to help understand the complex political situation here.

You’ll find a summary of the latest news, a timeline of events since 2005, a who’s who breakdown, and plenty of links to resources for learning more.

The site is a work in progress, and I look forward to adding to it over time. (You can read more in the About section.)

I will, of course, still be blogging here at I see TopicThailand as a more static site that focuses on context and analysis.

Stay tuned. And thanks, as ever, for reading.


Observations and questions as the red shirt protests come to an end (for now)

Now that the red shirt protests have come to an end (or paused?) ((The demonstrations seem to be over for now, that is. The red shirts say they’ll be back on Sat., March 27.)), here’s the question: What now?

Here are a few observations and questions, many of which I expect to re-visit in subsequent posts:

  • The reds shirts gained some credibility because the protests were peaceful. ((Note: there have been several mysterious grenade attacks at various locations in Bangkok of late. The Bangkok Post has the latest here. It is unclear who is behind these attacks. Both the red shirts and government blame each another.)) The violence that occurred in April, 2009 discredited the reds’ cause. And the Abhisit government dealt with the unrest successfully, boosting the PM’s stature.
  • The police — many of whom, I understand, were from the north and northeast of Thailand, like many of the red shirts — showed restraint in allowing the protesters to perform their “blood protests” in an orderly manner.

    No doubt the notion of a controlled protest that involves the splattering of human blood seems contradictory. But I can tell you, from witnessing the events at Government House and the prime minister’s residence, that the police dealt with the crowds in a measured, well-coordinated manner.

  • You might not get this impression from reading the local media here ((For more on the subject, I refer you to this CSM story today about Thailand’s media landscape)) but the red shirts seem to enjoy significant support among Bangkok people.

    To wit: I spent many hours attending red shirt protests and observing the red shirt caravans that paraded around town, and the onlookers overwhelmingly greeted the red demonstrators warmly. For example, see the image below, in which what appear to be everyday folks — not protesters who are wearing red attire — have come out to cheer the protesters on.

    This is notable because the red shirts are typically characterized as being farmers from the north and northeast who are at odds with the Bangkok middle class, business establishment, and bureaucracy. ((Yes, I realize that it’s possible that these pedestrians are also from the provinces.))

  • How will we remember the “blood protests“? The shocking use of protesters’ blood made international headlines, raising awareness of the red shirts’ cause abroad. But did the tactic alienate moderate Thais who are neither red nor yellow?

    People I have talked to have said that the reds’ use of blood was meant to appeal to their own base, and to seize the attention of those in power. So perhaps that’s all the red shirt leaders care about.

  • Can the red shirts move beyond Thaksin? Or do they want to? The exiled prime minister is reviled by many (non red shirt) Thais. Indeed, even some red shirts with whom I spoke told me that they were protesting not in support of Thaksin, but for democracy and what they call a level playing field.

    Still, Thaksin’s image could be seen on many, many signs and banners, such as the flag below. Thaksin is undoubtedly popular among many red shirts. But will the man prove to be a stumbling block to the red shirt movement?

  • Will dissolving the house solve anything? This is what the reds say they are trying to accomlish. But looking ahead, if new elections are held, and if the Thaksin-friendly Phua Thai party wins — as it likely would — what would happen then? Would Phua Thai appoint another proxy for Thaksin? If so, will the PAD — the yellow shirts — return?
  • That’s it for now. More on this soon, I’m sure.

    By the way, my five observations from last year — after the Songkran unrest ended — are similar to some of these thoughts. That’s testament, I suppose, to the intractability of the problem.


    Red shirt protesters march around Bangkok today

    Red shirt protesters will be touring Bangkok today, taking their protests from Rajadamnoen Rd. to various parts of the city. The Bangkok Post has the details. And there’s more from Reuters.

    In other news, this week’s Economist will not be distributed in Thailand due to an article about the Thai monarchy. Reuters explains. And VOA has a brief item, as well.

    You can follow the news on today’s protests by checking out the #redmarch hashtag on Twitter. You can also, of course, consult the Bangkok Post, the Nation, and Google News. (I will likely also be relaying some thoughts via Twitter.)


    Self promotion: Blood protest pics featured on BoingBoing

    Things have been relatively quiet here in Bangkok today. So I don’t have much new to share. But I did want to point out that the images I snapped of the bizarre blood protests here in Bangkok have been picked up by the uber-blog BoingBoing.

    Take a look at the (46 and counting) comments. The commentary there provides some insight into how the event may be perceived among a tech-savvy, young-ish, Western audience.

    Most of BoingBoing’s readers likely aren’t as familiar with the political issues driving the red shirts’ protests, so it’s interesting to see what they have to say about the demonstrations.


    Thailand blood protest: images from the prime minister’s house today

    Here are my images from today’s red shirt “blood protest” — is that an official term now? — at the prime minister’s house. You can find the details in this BBC story. And there’s more from GlobalPost and AP.

    I have a short video of the blood dousing incident itself, and will try to share that later. For now, here’re the pics…

    There’re a few more images in the full Flickr photoset.

    As ever, I’ll continue to monitor events. Follow me on Twitter for real-time updates.