Thailand: Calm before the storm?

The March 12 anti-government rally ended peacefully with the Red Shirts vowing to return to the streets this weekend as they continue to push for the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of new elections.

The Red Shirts are planning to stage a “million-man march” on March 14, Sunday, to topple the current administration.

Many Red Shirts are supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra but not all of them are fans of the fugitive leader who was recently found guilty by the court of corruption charges. The Red Shirts view the incumbent Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as being illegitimate and undemocratic.

The March 12 rallies in Bangkok and in the rural north marked the beginning of a series of protests that are scheduled to take place this weekend. The government estimated the crowd at 6,500 but rally organizers claimed they mobilized more than 30,000 people in the streets.

The Red Shirts have promised not to use violence in the rallies but this youtube video shows a scuffle between a Red Shirter and a motorist

Another video depicts alleged members of the Red Shirts in an act of distributing cash to rally participants.

The D-Day is still two days away but many Bangkok residents have chosen to stay away from the major rally sites. Banks were closed; dozens of countries issued travel advisories against going to Thailand this weekend; and residents were told not wear red or yellow which are “politically charged colors” in Thailand. The Yellow Shirts are supporters of the government.

Christopher Moore identifies the new media as alternative source of information about the situation in Bangkok

In Bangkok, at the best of times, it is difficult to get a static free signal. In the worst of times, it is impossible. There is too much noise rattling around inside the system. TV and radio is still under the control of the government and the information broadcast is generally pro government. But there is no longer a monopoly on broadcasting information. The Internet, Twitter, cell phone text messages are running hot with information, rumors, threats, warnings, and fear. The clash of messages has led to uncertainty and confusion.

What we have at the moment is fear, passion, anger, hatred and distrust. The information and knowledge is being filtered through these emotions

Newley observes that no extraordinary event took place on March 12 in Bangkok

Many people here in Bangkok expected the day to be chaotic. Businesses closed early. Schools cancelled classes. And while there were small demonstrations in some parts of city, it was largely a day like any other in central Bangkok.

Red Shirts marching

Red Shirts marching

Business and activism

Business and activism

Twitter posts about the Red Shirt rally can be read through these hashtags: #redtweet, #rednews, #redmob, #redmarch, #redbuffalo, #stupidred, #redtail, #redshirt, #redbuff. This author recommends #redtweet and #redshirt. Even Thaksin, who is hiding in many countries, has a twitter account.

Here are some twitter reactions to the March 12 rally

wisekwai Army guys wandering around Central City Bangna. Red, white and blue ribbons to show their allegiance. Not yellow like in '06. #redshirt
bangkokpastor Maybe I'm too cynical. Not surprised by vid on Nation Web showing Reds handing out cash. Yellows did same. Who cares? #redshirt
tulsathit: “They expected thousands at each gathering point, but protest leaders only managed to gather hundreds at each spot,” the source said
Richard Barrow @michael_sp34 I did not feel threatened at any time today. In fact they were mostly friendly and keen for us to take their pictures.
Richard Barrow: They are saying many of the #redshirt pickups and buses are being stopped and searched by police checkpoints which is delaying them

Hundreds of photos of the Red Shirts are accessible online courtesy of Richard Barrow.


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