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Thailand Catching Fire as Anti-Government Protests Intensify

Categories: East Asia, Thailand, Governance, Media & Journalism, Politics, Protest, War & Conflict
Thousands of anti-government protesters continued to hold rallies and marches across Bangkok. Photo by George Henton, Copyright @Demotix (11/26/2013) [1]

Thousands of anti-government protesters continued to hold rallies and marches across Bangkok. Photo by George Henton, Copyright @Demotix (11/26/2013)

More than 100,000 anti-government protesters stormed [2] the streets of Bangkok which has further intensified [3] political tension in Thailand. There are 13 protest sites [4] which included several government buildings [5] and media stations. Siam Voices summarizes the impact of the rally in the nation’s capital:

…anti-government protests in Bangkok, Thailand began again after crowds estimated at crowds estimated at 100,000-plus rallied in the city on Sunday. The protesters marched [6] to 13 separate protests across the city early Monday with the situation has become increasingly tense in the early afternoon.

Among the 13 rally sites, the protesters have targeted various free-TV stations – including the army-owned Channel 5, state-owned NBT (aka Ch 11) and Channel 3 – as they think that their rallies have been underreported or flat out ignored in the last few days and demand media to report “truthfully”.

Protesters occupied [7] the Budget Bureau and the Finance Ministry compound, the Foreign Ministry and the Public Relations Department. In response, the government expanded [8] the scope of the Internal Security Act as protesters vowed to hold more protests [9] across the country in the next few days.

This video [10] shows the size of the rally in Bangkok last Sunday, the biggest anti-government rally so far.

Protesters wanted the dissolution of the government headed by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra whom they accused of being a puppet of her elder brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was removed from power in the 2006 coup. He is in exile after being found guilty of plunder by a local court.

Protest actions have been organized in the past few weeks after the passage of the controversial Amnesty Bill [11] which would allow Thaksin to return home. Due to public pressure, the measure was voted down by the senate.

But the ongoing protests in Thailand indicate the continuing deep political divisions in the country. The situation is reminiscent of the 2008 crisis [12] when protesters occupied the airport, and other key facilities of Bangkok.

On Twitter, protesters were accused of spreading misinformation and using terror tactics

Tourists are advised to avoid protest sites:

This Google Map shows the major protest venues [19] in Bangkok:

View Protest Areas in Bangkok in November 2013 [20] in a larger map

Police are deployed in many parts of the city while protesters continue to occupy some government buildings:

Thorn Pitidol thinks [26] Suthep Thaugsuban, the opposition leader who is organizing the protest actions, has not made clear his political demands:

As many others have noted, what’s odd about this protest is that, despite the number it has managed to gather, the protest has not really spelled out any clear objectives

As far as I can understand, the blank rhetoric he threw out was not to propose any solution, he just wants to mobilise those who hate the government.

Meanwhile, media groups denounced the reported assault made by some protesters against a foreign journalist. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand issued this statement [27]:

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand deplores this in the strongest possible terms, and calls upon protest leaders to unequivocally and publicly state that the rights of journalists, foreign or Thai, should be respected.

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance interpreted the protests around media stations as a threat [28] to media freedom:

…the protests in front of TV stations can be interpreted as a direct coercion for media to report matters according to protesters’ views. These are no different from pressures faced by journalists from media owners and the state to slant news in their favour. It really does not matter from which group the pressure is coming, what is important is that these acts ultimately harm the professional media from keeping the public informed and channeling diverse political views.

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, urged both government forces and protest groups to avoid violence [29]:

Opposition groups have a right to protest peacefully, but that doesn’t mean assaulting journalists or anyone else. At the same time, the Thai authorities need to allow antigovernment demonstrations that are secure and don’t degenerate into violent confrontations.

Prime Minister Yingluck explained [30] why she expanded the Internal Security Act:

I ask my fellow citizens not to provide support for protests that violate the law and not to believe rumours. Please cooperate with officials in operations to maintain the law so that the situation may quickly return to normal. I ask those with opposing views to use the parliamentary means of a censure debate.