'Protest may only last 4-5 days but several sites could see violence' : CAPO
January 14, 2014 00:00
By Chanon Wongsatayanont,
The anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) yesterday drew up a list of the government offices and residences of Cabinet ministers to give to demonstrators, who would then proceed to those locations to put up barriers.
However, the protesters won’t camp out at those areas. They will return to the main rally sites before 5pm everyday,” core leader Satit Wongnongtaey said.
The Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order believes that the Bangkok shutdown will end in four to five days, but said the Government Complex on Chaeng Wattana Road, Lat Phrao Intersection and Victory Monument were among sites that could be possible flashpoints for strife. The five-way Lat Phrao Intersection was packed by 10am with protesters from the North and Northeast, plus students and alumni from nearby universities and members of various state enterprise labour unions.
Issara Somchai, the core PDRC leader assigned to be in charge of this site, said he was concerned about safety although 500 volunteers were guarding the venue. There were many high-rise buildings and overpasses in the vicinity, he explained.
Issara’s group marched to the Labour Ministry to chain the gate while Thaworn Senneam, in charge of Victory Monument, led protesters to surround the Public Relations Department, Natural Resources and Environment Department, Revenue Department and Finance Ministry on Soi Aree. The protesters later went back to their rally sites.
Vocational students gathered in front of Pheu Thai Party headquarters to clamour for the ouster of Yingluck Shinawatra, then dispersed after an hour.
The Dharma Army blocked traffic on Rama VIII Bridge and set up tents to make the bridge their rally site. The group also took over the Rajdamnoen site after the main protest group moved to new sites including Pathum Wan and Ratchaprasong intersections.
The mass of protesters who spilled over from Ratchaprasong intersection yesterday flocked around and blew whistles in front of the Royal Thai Police headquarters in an expression of contempt.
The atmosphere at Lumpini Park was as lively as at Rajdamnoen. Protesters danced on the street or made the rounds of the many southern food canteens set up there. The protesters looked like they were getting ready for a long stay, as there were lots of tents put up in the park, mostly belonging to supporters from the provinces.
The traffic was blocked towards the Sala Daeng Intersection.
Near the Silom business district and the shopping mecca of Ratchaprasong, many business owners and tourists mingled with the protesters. Many tourists were just visiting for the experience, but some joined in the movement itself.
Michelle and Marie, French tourists who were seen wearing the iconic whistle lanyards, approved of the Bangkok shutdown.
“This is the only way to get something because meetings and meetings would not achieve anything. We also love the atmosphere because we felt welcomed,” they said.
A German tourist, Konstantine, was also sympathetic.
“Whatever will bring about more democracy and justice is worth fighting for,” he said.
However, Ulrik Thomsen, a tourist from Denmark, frowned on the protest.
“Everyone would agree with the goal to get rid of corruption, but occupying Bangkok and disrupting small businesses is not the right way to achieve the goal,” he said.
A group of business owners admitted that their sales would be hit by the shutdown but said a short-term loss as necessary to prevent the long-term damage that would be caused by the current government.
Phairoj Kongtanathum, 65, said he wouldn’t mind if the shutdown stretches for weeks because it is necessary to achieve the mission.
Social media timelines were flooded with messages and photos of the Bangkok rally. Four main hashtags were used – #BangkokShutdown, #BKKShutdown, #ShutdownBangkok and #ShutdownBKK.
People played the role of citizen journalists along with the mainstream media – newspapers, TV channels, radio – and websites, which are also using hashtags to deliver news and updates. Tweets in Thai and English seemed to be equal in number.
All over the country, and even overseas, there were Thais using social networks, especially Twitter, as the main channel to broadcast messages and monitor developments.
A group of Thais even converged on New York’s Times Square to express encouragement for the Bangkok shutdown.