Monday, December 23, 2013

You Say You Want A Revolution

Anti-government protestors blow whistles and chant "Yingluck Auk Bai!" (Yingluck Get Out!), the rallying cry of the anti-government protests sweeping Bangkok. 

The protests are continuing unabated. Numbers dwindle during the week to a few thousand hard core protestors camped at the principal protest site near Democracy Monument, but when protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban calls for massive protests on the weekends his acolytes respond en masse.

This Sunday was one of those times. Suthep issued a call for his supporters to gridlock Bangkok and they did.
Protestors carry a Thai flag down Phloen Chit Road toward Ratchaprasong Intersection.

Protestors set up stages all over town, from Democracy Monument to Victory Monument, to Asoke, Ratchaprasong and Silom. They settled in for speeches, picnics and music. Bangkok is a big city (about 12 million people) but the city center is very, very compact. So even though there were multiple protest sites and hundreds of thousands people on the street, all of the stages were close to each other. Protestors marched, motorcaded and took commuter trains from site to site. The roads, sidewalks and trains were gridlocked and moving around was nearly impossible. 
Anti-government protestors confront riot police near Yingluck Shinawatra's home. 

Across town, in the suburbs near Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's home, a few thousand protestors, mostly women, gathered to go to the PM's home. Riot police set up a series of barricades and stopped protestors from going down the street. Protestors stood at the barricade and screamed at police and then marched right up to the barricade and threatened to dismantle it. 

Rather than let people tear the barricade down, police intervened and removed it. 


Emboldened, the protestors marched further down to the street to the next barricade and tried to dismantle it. 

Rather than let people tear the barricade down, police intervened and removed it. 

On a roll now, protestors kept going and went to the third barricade and threatened to tear it down. 

Rather than let people tear the barricade down, police intervened and removed it. 

Protestors marched on to Yingluck's home, put flowers in the gate and then sat in the street and blocked traffic for several hours before moving to the larger protests in central Bangkok. 
Protestors in front of Yingluck's home.

The protestors are mostly members of Thailand's middle class. 

This is not a protest about bread and butter issues like farm subsidies or addressing bankers' malfeasance or redistribution of wealth. This is not Occupy. As if to reinforce this point, I saw a group of protestors motoring their way through the crowd very slowly in an Alfa Romeo convertible. In years of covering political protests around the world, this was, without a doubt, the first time I saw protestors using an Alfa to get around.

This is about the direction of Thai democracy and where Thailand goes from here. The animosity towards Yingluck and her brother, exiled fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is visceral and primal. 
A protestor in Asok lets everyone know her feelings about Yingluck.

National elections are scheduled for February 2. The protest movement promises to stop the election with a "Reform before election" rallying cry. The government says the election will take place. 

There are more photos from Sunday's protest, and all of the protests, available in my archive or from ZUMA Press


Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

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