Thai politics Thailand

Thailand protests update: a few links to share

The truce holds, at least for now.

The Thai king turned 86 today; it’s a national holiday.

Meanwhile, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told supporters Tuesday night:

“We will start our fight again on December 6. We will start as dawn is breaking and we will fight every day until we get victory…”

Here are a few items worth reading:

Stay tuned.

Thai politics Thailand

Thailand protests: And just like that, we’ve reached a truce

See today’s stories from the WSJ, the AP, the BBC, Reuters, and the NYT. For the tick-tock, see Saksith Saiyasombut’s liveblog.

Meanwhile, I wrote this Quartz post: “Cops giving protesters roses does not mean Thailand’s unrest is over.”

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.

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

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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.

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Thai Amnesty Bill Clears Lower House

A quick follow up on the protests in Thailand I mentioned a few days back:

The AP reports:

Thai lawmakers gave initial approval Thursday to a controversial bill to grant amnesty to people charged with political offenses during turmoil that began with a 2006 military coup.

The lower house of parliament voted 300 to 124 to accept the government-sponsored bill in principle after a two-day debate. Critics of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra fear it is an initial move toward allowing his return from overseas, where he fled to avoid jail after a conflict of interest conviction.


Opposition from outside parliament was unexpectedly weak, and fears of major clashes involving street protests were not realized. The fate of Thaksin, who was ousted by the coup after being accused of corruption and disrespect for Thailand’s revered monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, arouses fierce passions that sometimes have erupted into violence.

Meanwhile, The Guardian has a story on the protests, along with some analysis from Thitinan Pongsudhirak:

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, said the protests demonstrated a disenchantment” with the government but it was highly unlikely that they would overthrow it.

“The protest really is designed to unseat the government. But the anti-Thaksin coalition is not united, there is unlikely to be any intervention by the military or the judiciary, and there is not enough traction, not enough numbers [from the protesters], for them to really succeed,” he said.

The BBC has a video report, including remarks from former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

And here’s a roundup of media coverage from Bangkok Pundit.

And finally, The Bangkok Post reports today that:

Authorities were confident they could easily handle the group of anti-government demonstrators still camping at Lumpini Park on Friday following the lifting of the Internal Security Act (ISA), saying they present no threat.


Red shirt protests start tomorrow

Quick note — this NYT story does a good job of surveying the scene ahead of the upcoming red shirt protests, which are due to start tomorrow (Fri. the 12th) here in Bangkok.

I will, as ever, be blogging here and posting snippets on Twitter. If you see any good articles or have any first hand accounts to share, let me know: newley AT

Stay tuned…


Explaining today’s red shirt rally

The Bangkok Post has details on today’s planned red shirt rally here in the Thai capital.

For a big picture look at why the anti-government demonstrators are gathering, I suggest this CSM story: “Briefing: Why Thai protesters are taking to the streets again.”


Thai government invokes security law ahead of Sunday red shirt protest

Reuters: “Thailand passes tough security law to control protest

Thailand’s government passed a security law Tuesday that clears the way for the military to be brought in to control a planned rally by supporters of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), better known as the “red shirts,” plan to demonstrate Sunday outside Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s office, calling for his resignation.

A three-week occupation of the premier’s office in April sparked Thailand’s worst street violence in 17 years, forcing Abhisit to call a state of emergency and stoking concerns over the stability of Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy.

Straits Times: “Thailand invokes ISA

Thailand’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved the invoking of an internal security law to keep order at an anti-government rally in Bangkok on Sunday.

The law, which suspends some civil rights and puts the military in charge of law and order, will apply only to the historic Dusit district where the rally will take place.

The red-shirted United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) is holding the rally with a twin message: it is calling for dissolution of the House and fresh elections; and for the government not to stall over the petition for a royal pardon for fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The petition, signed by more than three million people, was sent last week by the King’s office to the government for review.

The invocation of the law, which allows the military to move quickly without declaring a state of emergency, reflects mounting anxiety over the administration of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is perceived as weak.

You can find more info in this Nation story, as well as in this article from the Bangkok Post. And Bangkok Pundit has some analysis here.


My World Hum Q&A on Thailand protests and traveling here

If you’re wondering about traveling in Thailand following the recent political unrest here, you might be interested in this Q&A I did with World’s Hum’s Julia Ross yesterday. Julia asked me about the current atmosphere in Bangkok, what impact the turmoil is likely to have on Thailand’s tourism industry, and what advice I have for those considering a trip to Thailand.


Thailand protests end: five observations

Anti-government red shirt protesters here in Bangkok dispersed yesterday, bringing an end to the unrest that has engulfed the Thai capital over the past few days.

Army troops secured major intersections throughout the city, and demonstrators who had gathered at the Prime Minister’s office have now left.

Throughout Bangkok, people are celebrating Songkran — the Thai new year — in earnest, splashing water and dancing to music in the streets.

Here are five observations I have after speaking with people and reporting on the situation here. I’ve been sharing some ongoing thoughts and links on Twitter, but here’s a longer dispatch:

1. While normalcy has returned to the Thai capital, the images of chaos may prove lasting. Last week, protesters invaded a hotel in Pattaya where a meeting of Asian leaders was being held, and then demonstrators clashed with police here in Bangkok. Red shirts set city buses on fire and blocked roads with taxis. It was only when army troops fired automatic weapons into the air and moved to disperse them that the demonstrators retreated. This is dramatic stuff, clearly, and while things have returned to normal now, these images are powerful, especially so for those watching from outside the country.

2. PM Abhisit was successful in putting down the uprising, but what comes next? When he came to power a few months ago, many hoped that he would mend the divide between the two factions battling here. And…

3. No progress has been made in settling the differences between pro and anti-Thaksin forces. On the one hand is the red shirts, who are commonly characterized as coming from the rural north and northeast of the country. Many of them support exiled prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006. On the other side are the yellow-shirts (the PAD), who say Thaksin and his associates are corrupt, and that their influence must be removed from politics.

4. The red shirts claim that they’ll be back. Yesterday a red shirt organizer said that they’ll now go home and rest over Songkran. And then they’ll return to Bangkok in even larger numbers. Red shirt demonstrators I spoke with indicated that they were merely suspending their demonstrations, but that the fight isn’t over. What comes next?

5. There are serious worries here about tourism and the economy. Tourism accounts for 6.7 percent of the Thai economy. And the goal was to attract some 14 million tourists this year. Some estimates say that number may now fall to less than 10 million. The industry was already suffering following the PAD’s week-long closure of Bangkok’s international airport in late November, 2008. And the global financial crisis has also taken its toll. The government has announced that it may seek to increase its recent economic stimulus pacakge. Analysts say, though, that a key component in shoring up the economy is achieving political stability. That now appears to be a long way off.

That’s it for now. I’ll be back and blogging next week.