The fifth day of the anti-government protests by the red shirts took a somewhat bizarre turn. As announced yesterday, they called for their supporters to donate blood and then spill it at the Government House and later at the headquarters of the Democrat Party. Needless to say, it was a bloody mess (sorry for this and all coming blood-related puns). But it is not only what the red shirts have left at the sites, but also what is left of this campaign of this movement itself.
I mentioned yesterday my skepticism about this whole stunt. First there were the logistics: contrary to what I assumed the red shirts started with the blood donations this morning. In the end they managed to get 300 liters of blood from 70,000 people, of course far off from what they wanted to achieve. The process was completed at 4 pm and soon after a part of the Red Shirts moved to Government House and after that the crowd moved to the headquarters of the Democrat Party.
At 4.50pm, Jatuporn Prompan, a UDD leader, a man dressed in white as a Brahman, and another man holding a Buddha statue in his arms, walked to Gate No 2 where a religious rite was performed. The brahman cited spells and incantations and poured an amount of blood in front of the gate.
After that the brahman took some of the blood from the ground to write letters on the concrete posts of the gate.
“Reds complete blood ritual“, Bangkok Post, March 15, 2010
Half an hour later, about 100 men dodged around security to the Democrat Party’s building and sloshed out another 18 litres of blood.
Reporters, police and soldiers looked on in amazement as the blood was being poured.
“Reds come good on pledge to splatter Govt House“, The Nation, March 15, 2010
Looking at the (very gross, you’ve been warned) pictures, the Red Shirts have left a far sizable mess at the Democrat HQ than at Government House. Also, at both sites a white-robed Brahman priest took part in the stunt, doing a ritual with citations probably cursing the current government and other power holders for all eternity. Can anybody explain to me the spiritual background of this?
What I also cannot explain is what the red shirt will gain with this in the longer term, if at all? I’m still convinced that this was an impulsive, hastily planned attention grabber that has at least raised a few eye brows. Sure, the press was there to cover it and the pictures of the bloodbath will go around. Also, the red shirts wanted to leave a mark showing that they were here to stay or simply trying not to lose their face at the end. The problem is though, this protest hasn’t really hurt anyone (not implying violence), unlike the seizure of the two Bangkok airports by the PAD (the Yellow Shirts), which has left a big wound on many levels. But the people will forget about today as quickly as the blood has been cleaned off.
I don’t think this will gain more supporters, let alone for those undecided people of Bangkok which they tried to woo in for their case on Friday. It appears to me that the protest is slowly running out of steam. While it was well-planned and executed, with a decent amount of supporters (although nowhere near a million or even 500,000), no big troubles and inconveniences for the residents of Bangkok whatsoever, the leaders didn’t really think about how to end this. It must have been clear for them that there was absolutely no chance they would topple the government. Also, the government itself has cleverly restrained themselves in the background letting the red shirts pass and even wooing them in a conciliatory tone. This attitude has caught the red shirt leaders off guard (while justifiably the potential for violence existed) that led them to up the ante, which then resulted in questionable stunts as seen today.
The only interesting issue left now is how the red shirts will conclude this protest, either slowly fading away or going out once more with a bang.
- Wayne Hay (Al Jazeera English): Thai blood protest could backfire
- Shawn W. Crispin (Asia Times): Bloody desperation for Thailand’s reds
- Siam Report: Blood Protest & Future of the Movement
- Richard Barrow: Thailand is Open as Normal