A bomb blast in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, has added to the turmoil of recent weeks. Thailand has seen an outpouring of anger and resentment at the current government, which is seen as hopelessly corrupt by much of the population. Until recently, the protests have been largely peaceful, loud and widespread, but eight people have already died in separate violent outbursts. The video below shows the protest atmosphere in recent days.
This relative peace was shattered again when someone threw a grenade into the crowds, killing one and injuring thirty more. The attack happen close to Bangkok’s largest university, a popular meeting place for protesters.
The protests have focused on the office of the Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is the younger sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006 when an election boycott destabilized the government. The protesters demand that she leave office before the new election is called so that the election can represent a “cleaning of the house,” in the hope that political corruption in the country can be effectively tackled.
It would be logical to assume that one of several groups who gain from government favoritism was responsible for the bomb. The loss of power by Sunnis in Iraq was widely seen as a strong influence of the break down into civil war there. Any future Thai government will have to be careful not to cause a feeling of total exclusion for these groups, as then Thailand may be in danger of following Iraq’s tragic example.
The protests have been led by Suthep Thaugsuban. The protesters have been clear in their demand that Yingluck leave office before the currently planned Feb 2nd poll, which will likely be widely boycotted otherwise. This could drive a second military coup in order to continue some level of stability in the government. Thaugsuban also made it clear he believes the bomb was the work of the government. However, Thaugsuban himself potentially faces murder charges due to a 2010 protest that was violently broken up when he was deputy prime minister.
The present Thai government has been doing its best to ignore the protests, which has only fueled the confrontation. If the protesters take up arms in an effort to protect themselves from future attacks, tensions will escalate again, and the potential for a major incident will increase.
Indeed, several gulf states have advised their citizens to leave Thailand, although most western governments are advising their citizens to show caution and avoid Bangkok at this time. As Thailand is heavily dependent on tourism, their absence due to the Bangkok turmoil and the bomb attack will have a strong economic effect, which will be felt pretty soon.
On Monday the protesters were able to occupy government buildings and bring central Bangkok to a stand still.
The bomb attack was only the most recent incident; shootings have taken place at the protests and explosive devices have gone off at the homes of the politicians leading the protests. In another incident, three naval commandos were arrested for carrying weapons, apparently to protect the protesters.
The world is waiting to see if Bangkok’s turmoil will end, or if there will be another bomb.
By Andrew Willig