This Friday marks yet another chapter in the seemingly unending political crisis in Thailand as the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship have called their supporters to flock to Bangkok for a mass rally and yet again, they are calling for Prime Minister Abhisit to dissolve parliament. What is different this time is the anticipation on all sides.
On one hand, the red shirts are boasting that a million people will come to the capital. It can be said for certain that this high number is more an aim rather than the real turnout will be. If they are lucky, they can manage to mobilize more than 100,000 protesters. In a press conference by the UDD earlier this months they proclaim that the movement has grown and are also confident that even the middle class of Bangkok, for the most part yellow, will join them. For the rest of UDD’s press conference and analysis, AbsolutelyBangkok has written a report on it.
On the other the government is trying to cope with the large wave of red shirts. Besides invoking the Internal Security Act, military checkpoints have been set up at the outskirts and many other measures (e.g. pick-ups with non-BKK licenses cannot enter Bangkok) were made to either control or in some cases to restrict the protesters entering the capital. But the overall crisis management has been schizophrenic. The blog Thailand Crisis has pretty much nailed it as it’s headline reads: “After contributing to panic, Abhisit calls for people not to panic”
I will not delve into the issues surrounding the protests (see below for further reading), but what I want to address is the anticipation to the upcoming events. Even though both sides have pledged not to use any violence against anybody, there is a tense mood among the residents of Bangkok. Clearly, the both fractions have failed to keep the mood calm. What is also clear is that nobody want to have a repeat of the Songkran riots of last year. While we all hope that they’re will be no violence unfortunately – as we have seen several times already in Thai politics – nothing is for certain and nobody can be regarded as fully sincere. But all fractions also know that if they cause unrest and violence, the other side would gain space in their respective argument or as The Nation‘s editor Tulsathit Taptim has noted:
Apparently, it’ll be a matter of who blinks first. If Govt fires first, it’ll lose. If reds throw Molotov cocktails first, they’ll lose.
Tulsathit Taptim on Twitter
- The Nation: All set for full-scale, multimedia coverage of protests (includes map of blocked roads)
- Bangkok Pundit: Pretext for checkpoints and stoking fear
- IPS News: Rural Protesters Prepare to Paint Bangkok Red
- New York Times: Thailand Braces for Political Rallies in Capital
Also, follow me on Twitter for updates on the events.