In what appears to be a repeat of Thailand political demonstrations from 2008, protesters are prepared to march in an attempt to shutdown much of Bangkok city. Bangkok is the hub of commerce and travel in Thailand. For weeks protesters have brought the Bangkok airport to a standstill which is the second largest travel hub in Southeast Asia. Protesters throughout Thailand are planning to rally in Bangkok on Monday in an attempt to close off main roads and surround major government buildings where they plan to cut power and water.
The demonstration is reported to be aligned with the The People’s Democratic Reform Committee who is calling for the removal of Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Yingluck is the sister of the self-exiled former ruler and telecom mogul Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was removed from power in 2008 after years of protest and finally a military coup. The protests of 2013 and 2014 are again calling for the removal of leadership claiming that Yingluck is nothing more than the puppet leader of Thaksin. Demonstrations were provoked when Yingluck attempted to pass a political amnesty law that would have paved the way for Thaskin’s possible return to power.
The Shinawatra power hold has been in effect since 2001 when Thaksin was able to mobilize the large population of rural and farming communities to help him win the position of leadership. Thaksin has continually won elections due in part to his creation of inexpensive healthcare, rice subsidies and easy credit.
The head of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, Suthep Thaugsuban, has called for the King of Thailand to choose the government’s new leader and for a ‘people’s council’ to be formed to begin policy reform. Suthep and spokesman, Akanat Promphan, have stated that the protest will begin in mass on Monday and continue until the February elections cannot continue. The upcoming elections are considered a sure win for the current Puea Thai Party. Yingluck has refused to step down and insists that elections will go forward as planned. She announced that democratic elections are the only way to solve the issues of the country is a peaceful and proper manner. Yingluck further declared that she did not want to see a repeat of the 2010 violence and economic disaster when her brother was removed from power.
Promphan and Thaugsuban have commented that protesters throughout Thailand will march in an attempt to shutdown Bangkok until their demands are met. They have called for indefinite demonstrations until Yingluck resigns. The plan is to shut down as many as 20 main streets to disrupt the daily business of the city. The protest leaders have said that they will spare public transportation and ease rallies at the airport. They indicate that disruption of the citizen’s daily life is not the goal of the protests. However, they will target the ministry buildings and possibly the quarters of Yingluck herself.
The government has announced it will mobilize 20,000 police and 20 companies of troops to maintain peace during the protests. On Saturday thousands of government supporters arrived in a suburb of Bangkok to support the launch of the elections. Ultimately the military took control and forced the removal of leadership.
On Monday the large movement will begin and the world will watch for indications of reformation either peaceful or not and loyal disposition of government troops.
Rights groups and Amnesty International have called for all parties in Thailand to respect the human rights of marching protesters even though they are planning to shut down the city of Bangkok. Isabelle Arradon of Amnesty International expressed that the tension in Thailand was volatile and unpredictable which could lead to human rights violations and deaths. Arradon recognized that law and military forces had a duty to protect citizens and city infrastructure but urged non-lethal and non-violent means to control unwarranted situations. She also said it was the responsibility of protest leaders to ensure a peaceful protest was being conducted and that protesters not violate human rights. The world is watching closely and is concerned that there will be a repeat of the 2010 protests where 91 people lost their lives when the military finally took control and forced the removal of leadership.
By Anthony Clark