I’m not sure how much coverage it’s all getting back in the states, but there is quite a bit of political unrest in Thailand right now. The general issue is that the PAD (People’s Alliance for Democracy, the government opposition group) is staging a massive protest in an attempt to overthrow the current government forcing Prime Minister Samak out of power. Everything has been coming to climax over the past few days…
The protests have been increasing in size, publicity, and effectiveness since May. The PAD is responsible for the last coup 2 years ago when they ousted the corrupt Prime Minister Thaskin. The PAD are saying that its still the same corrupt government but with a new face, which is PM Samak. The PAD have made it obvious they are not backing down or going home until the current government is gone.
It is apparent there are mixed emotions from Thai’s about the current situation. When you talk to the lower income bracket, blue collar workers, most state their support for the current government. Thaskin/Samak are well liked by the poor. They frequently offer handouts or incentives to the poor such as: supplement fuel, free bus transport, free trains, etc. The educated Thai’s state that the PAD are trying to empower a non-corrupt government that will help Thailand grow to its potential rather than hoard billions of Baht (thai currency) as Thaskin is charged with doing. The PAD claim they love Thailand, they love the King, and they are trying to make Thailand a better place.
As of Monday roughly 10,000 PAD assembled near the government compound in Bangkok. By Tuesday morning, the PAD had taken control of the local TV station forcing it off the air. They also stormed the government compound taking complete control. Throughout the entire week tension has been escalating and the PAD protesters are being bussed in, walked in, by the thousands. Friday morning, the tension broke as police used force to regain perimeter control of the government compound, locking inside at least 10,000 PAD.
Friday afternoon, I was feeling much better from my illness and decided to go check out the protest from afar. Upon getting down to the area it appeared the police had it under control and everything was “peaceful”. More PAD had arrived and their numbers were building by the hour outside of the compound area. I was able to keep my distance and still snap off a few pictures. I walked way around the “conflict” area to the back of the government compound where multiple streets and a bridge converge into the area. I could visibly see the protesters inside the compound talking on microphones to the protesters on the outside of the police barricade. The police inevitably sandwiched themselves between the protesters on the inside and the mass of protesters on the outside. I was still far enough away to feel safe but close enough for my heart to beat fast. A PAD woman who spoke a little english and asked what I thought about the situation. She explained her side of the story and showed me her friend who had a bloody head from the violence earlier in the morning when the police forced their way in closing off the perimeter. The chanting got louder and as I stood on a railing over the canal I got to watch it unfold. It appeared the PAD on the outside were about to force their way over the police to get in. Everyone was yelling and holding up their weapon of choice (bat, golf club, piece of metal, etc) as the police lined up behind each other outfitted in riot gear. Before any violence could take place, the police held up a little flag showing they surrendered. The police could not leave as they were sandwiched between the PAD inside the compound and those wanting to get in. Peacefully the PAD made an opening and allowed the police to march out single file.
As of Friday, we learned the PAD took control of at least 2 of the southern airports. Security was brought in to Bangkok Intl Airport to ensure it remained open. As of midnight Friday, all trains are shut down. School is canceled at least for Monday as of now.
We aren’t too sure what’s going to happen. While there has been no serious violence (yet), tensions are definitely high and there are tens of thousands of protesters on the Government grounds for the fourth straight day, all outfitted in helmets and armed with bamboo sticks, clubs and other weapons. Check the Bangkok Post for up-to-date info: www.bangkokpost.com
Here is a short video I shot showing hundreds of police surrendering to the PAD and filing out of the compound. Check it out: