This weekend is the Red Shirt Protest weekend- it is Saturday afternoon now and all of Bangkok is on high alert and waiting. On Friday the 12th car traffic was very light on the streets, many workers were sent home at 2:00 and some banks closed early; it was very quiet all night. Saturday morning was eerily quite, but nothing was happening.
The red shirts are descending on Bangkok in hopes of forcing the lower house of Parliament to dissolve and call for a new election and the PM to resign. The PM has said he would resign if it would bring stability to Thailand, but will not resign due to a weekend protest and rally. This rally is also to support the former PM Taksin and the assets that were seized in the court ruling of two weeks ago.
Almost one year ago the red shirt march ended up with 2 people dead and significant violence in the streets. The red shirts also caused the cancellation of an ASEAN summit just outside Bangkok. At that time it was not clear if the government had the backing of the military and police personnel- this year it appears the government has full backing and is well in control with close to 40,000 police and military personnel on the streets or on alert.
The red shirts were responding to the new government and the yellow shirt protests that closed both airports in Bangkok. The end result was very bad for Thailand in terms of the flow of tourists to the country and foreign investment in the country.
The majority of the red shirts come from up country; they have been meeting in various cities over the past few days to convoy into Bangkok. The police and military have setup roadblocks all along the way to search the cars and trucks for weapons. Originally they had said they march and protest would start on Friday with the largest day for the gathering being Sunday the 14th.
Security is high, bags and purses are searched when entering shopping malls or riding public trains, on Saturday afternoon military personnel were on the platforms on the Sky Train stations and in clear view at busy intersections; just waiting, and smiling.
The Friday portion of the protest was a bust for the red shirts- they have called this the “million man march”, but on Friday there were a smattering of a few hundred red shirts at each gathering point around Bangkok. They are now estimating that Sunday the 14th will bring up to 70,000 people on the streets for the march and protest.
The gamesman ship being played is very good- the red shirts pay drivers of cars that transport people to the march THB400, the government is paying soldiers an allowance of THB420-520 per day for their work.
The government has imposed the Internal Security Act for Bangkok that allows them to limit the size of gatherings and impose curfews. They are now considering raising the alert status to Red Alert- no pun intended.
We all hurry up and wait, stand around and look at the quite streets with the majority of the people that are out and about being Westerners and tourists.