Saturday, May 31, 2014

Show Of Force

Thai soldiers stand shoulder to shoulder around Victory Monument

Victory Monument, a huge traffic circle and intersection in Bangkok, has been ground zero for the protests against the coup. 

On Saturday, two days after the coup, several hundred protestors ended up at Victory Monument for a couple of hours of chanting, marching and venting against the generals who staged the coup. 

The next day protestors gathered in Ratchaprasong Intersection and repeatedly confronted soldiers. Just as the Ratchaprasong protest looked like it was going to end in violence, with protestors lining up to charge soldiers and soldiers forming lines to battle pro-democracy protestors, the crowd abandoned whatever plans it had and went to Victory Monument. 

Monday and Tuesday protests started at Victory Monument. Both days protestors verbally confronted authorities but there was no violence and authorities made no effort (besides verbal pleas to go home) to shut down the protest. 
Soldiers block access to Victory Monument Skywalk. 

Thursday authorities were proactive. 

The protests start about 4PM, just as people are getting out of work. At about 3PM well over 1,000 soldiers and police descended on Victory Monument and sealed it off. They started out by shutting down all of the small food and clothing stalls in the market around the Monument, then they asked people to leave the area and then blocked the streets leading into the Monument. 

By 3:45PM the area was completely locked down. Some people still lingered but there was an overwhelming government presence and no one had the temerity to challenge the soldiers. 
A vendor pulls her shop away from Victory Monument after soldiers asked her to leave. 

If the government plan was to prevent protestors from disrupting traffic it was successful.

If the government plan to was to keep traffic moving in a normal fashion it was not. VM is one of the busiest intersections in Bangkok. Disrupting traffic here has a ripple effect across central Bangkok. The traffic disruption Thursday was massive. No traffic got through the intersection for more than two hours. No private vehicles, no taxis, no busses. No commuters. 

At the same time, protestors were not inconvenienced at all. They didn't get to protest, but they were there and managed to make their point without raising a voice. I saw a lot of people in the crowd that I've been photographing since the coup. Since they didn't  protest, soldiers didn't arrest them. 
Police vehicles surround Victory Monument. Normally this is a slow moving river of cars, in near constant gridlock.

I think the question is how long can the junta continue to preemptively lock down Victory Monument. They could do it every day, but that would paralyze Bangkok rush hour traffic. Now that they've done it twice (they locked it down again Friday evening) the protestors will be waiting for the first day it's not locked down. And then they'll be back. It's a cat and mouse game I'm not sure the junta can win. 

For the media in Bangkok it means we have to go to VM every afternoon and wait. Nothing happened today. But we have to be there for the first day something does happen after the lockdowns. 

There are more photos of the lockdown and Thursday's protest (there was a small protest at Chong Nonsi BTS station) in my archive and available 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.

Friday, May 30, 2014

What We See

Women collapse on a Bangkok street after confronting soldiers during a protest against the coup. 

A few months ago, the Associated Press "severed" its relationship with Narciso Contreras, a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer because he altered a photo inappropriately. Contreras was a freelancer with a contract with AP, not an AP staffer. His work is stunning, there's no question about his talent or dedication.

He was terminated by AP because he altered a photo he made in Syria. He made a photo of a Syrian fighter taking cover and there was a video camera in the lower left corner of the frame. He used image editing software to remove the camera. The photos and AP's explanation are here.

This is not a defense of Contreras. He should not have used image editing software to remove the camera. That's a fireable offense at any newspaper or wire service I know of.

When photojournalists go out to photograph a news scene we want to put the people who look at our pictures in the middle of what we're seeing. We're there to bear witness. But sometimes what we show the world only reflects a sliver of what we're seeing. Again, this is not a defense of Contreras. Nor is it a condemnation of AP for firing him. But every time photojournalists go out to photograph, we're making conscious decisions about we show the reader and what we don't.

In the photo at the top of the page, we see a couple of distraught women in a crowd collapsing in the street. That's a real moment. The women had been screaming and crying a few meters from a line of Thai soldiers who were on the street after the coup deposed the elected government. Their anger is real. There is nothing fake or manufactured about that moment. But what the reader doesn't see is in the photo below.
A few minutes later I walked around the woman and photographed the reverse angle. 

Both photos are a truthful representation of what I saw Monday on the street in Bangkok. Is one more truthful than the other? Or does it take both to present an accurate telling of the story?

This is conundrum photojournalist face on almost every assignment. Certainly on every assignment where there's more than one photographer present. We want to take our viewers where we are, to see what we see.
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. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Chaturon Chaisaeng Arrested

Chaturon Chaisaeng, former Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister in the Pheu Thai government, the elected civilian government ousted by the Thai army last week, answers questions at a press conference Tuesday. 

One of the first things the leader of the coup that ousted the Thai government did was to order all of Pheu Thai leadership to report to the army. Most did so. Some have been released, under orders not to talk to the media or travel, and some are still in army custody.

Chaturon Chaisaeng is a long serving Thai politician and veteran opponent of Thai coups of the 1970s. He was a Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Education in the last government. Chaturon said he did nothing wrong and that the coup was illegal. He disobeyed the army and went into hiding. He surfaced Tuesday in a hastily called press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand

Chaturon started by saying he had about 90 minutes and then read a long statement explaining why he didn't report to the army and why he thought the coup was illegal. He took some questions from Thai and foreign reporters and then agreed to meet with some reporters for one on one interviews. 

About 95 minutes after Chaturon started, group of soldiers burst into the room just as the one on one interviews were starting. Under the glare of television lights and pops of flashes they pushed to the front of the room and asked Chaturon to stand. There was a brief, reasonably cordial, back and forth in Thai and the soldiers surrounded Chaturon and pulled him out of the crowd, while hundreds of journalists tried to get photos and shout questions. 

Chaturon tried as best he could to answer questions while soldiers pulled him away. He never stopped smiling and stayed upbeat the whole time. A group of foreign photographers, who have parachuted into Thailand with no understanding of what is going on here, started laughing and a Thai army officer screamed at them, "this is not funny, this is not funny!" 

Soldiers led the political figure, a veteran of the insurgencies of the 70s (he faced arrest after the 1976 coup and spent time in the jungle with anti-government insurgents) to a waiting van and sped him away. The last we saw of the Education Minister was a door being shut as the van revved its engine. 
An affable Chaturon is led away. 

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. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Monday at the Monument

A woman collapses in tears after confronting soldiers during a pro-democracy protest at Victory Monument.

Monday was the first "normal" day after the coup last week. Schools were back in session and offices and malls tried to have normal hours. 

In Coup News, General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, Thailand's de-facto Prime Minister, announced that the coup received the Royal endorsement and was sworn in as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). He started paying the rice farmers what they were owed under Yingluck Shinawatra's rice pledging scheme and promised to alleviate hardship in the country. 
A woman hugs a police officer on the front line of an anti-coup rally in Bangkok. 

Prayuth's announcement though did not mollify his critics. Thousands of people came to Victory Monument, the scene of previous anti-coup rallies, to demand an end to military rule and a return to elections. People marched around the monument chanting "elections!!" and "Prayuth, get out!"

Authorities anticipated Monday's rally and shut down most of the stations on the BTS Sukhumvit Line, that goes north up Phaya Thai Road past Victory Monument, to limit access to the rally site. There was a large military and police presence around the monument but people still came. 

At first isolated individuals would stand up and tape their mouths shut (to protest the apparent loss of free speech) or flash anti-coup signs before quickly walking away. The crowd (this is a very busy shopping and transportation hub in Bangkok and is always busy) would applaud and few more people would spontaneously protest, then a few more and in a matter of minutes hundreds of people were marching around the Monument.

Within 30 minutes thousands of people were in the Monument displaying signs, chanting and marching. Tension grew when police and military closed in but authorities made no effort to break up the protest. 

A bilingual army officer used a loudspeaker on a Humvee to encourage protestors to go home. He switched back and forth between Thai and English, in Thai urging protestors to ignore the foreign media and go home and in English telling the media that coups were nothing new in Thailand and that the army knew what it was doing and foreign reporters should go back to their hotels, at one point saying "Game over." 

This went on for more than a hour. Authorities held their lines and protestors made no effort to physically confront police or military. There was a lot verbal confrontation but many of the protestors seemed to be middle class Bangkokians and there were a lot of women in the crowd. It was not a crowd looking for a physical confrontation. 
Women pro-democracy protestors mock the PDRC anti-government protest (now ended) by playing with a traffic cone. Guards at PDRC protest sites earned a reputation for brutality after they beat up a number of motorists who moved their traffic cones during the PDRC protests. As a result, traffic cones have become politicized in Thailand.

As darkness fell, people started heading home on their own and the protest more or less fell apart. By about 6.15PM most of the crowd was gone (or eating in some of the many restaurants around Victory Monument) and the military was moving freely through the area. 
Soldiers at Victory Monument. 

After protestors left, soldiers walked around the Monument to make sure it was clear.

There are more photos from Monday's protest in my archive or available 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. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Coup Protests Continue

Supporters of the ousted, elected, government weep during a protest against the coup.

Protests against the coup in Thailand continued and became more widespread Sunday. Where the Saturday protests had hundreds of people marching against the army, Sunday's protests had thousands. 

Soldiers were more tense Sunday and tried to make some arrests, but things were still largely peaceful. 
A soldier screams at protestors.

The leaders of the coup seem to be growing more impatient with the street protests. They've warned protestors that the army could use force if the protests continue and started arresting (or detaining) academicians and journalists. 
A "Red Shirt" supporter of the ousted, elected, government in army custody.

Sunday protests started at a McDonald's restaurant in Ratchaprasong. Protestors thought they had chased soldiers away were celebrating their victory when a convoy of army reinforcements arrived. Protestors tried to confront the soldiers but instead decided to march to Victory Monument, a short distance away. They continued the protest at Victory Monument for a couple of hours before breaking up ahead of curfew. 
Protestors confront soldiers in Ratchaprasong.

There are more photos from Sunday's protest in my archive or available 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. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Push Back Against the Coup

A woman pushes against police who were blocking the road to Victory Monument.

Public opposition to the coup in Thailand seems to be growing. There was a small anti-coup demonstration at the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center Friday evening. On Saturday, democracy activists marched from a mall in northern Bangkok to central Bangkok.
Demonstrators gather in front of a Bangkok shopping mall to protest the coup.

Riot police confronted protestors at the mall, but then backed down. 
Riot police move into position at the mall. 

Protestors left the mall to march to Victory Monument, about six miles away. Riot police and soldiers blocked the road near Saphan Khwai. Some small scuffles broke out when protestors reached the police line then police announced protestors would not be allowed to go past, so protestors turned around and walked back to the BTS station and took the Skytrain to Victory. 
Protestors scuffle with police on the way to Victory Monument. 

There were hundreds of pro-democracy protestors at Victory Monument. There were a few soldiers in the elevated walkway around the Monument but not in the streets around the monument. Protestors marched around the monument chanting "We want an election!" and "Prayuth, Get out!" 
Protestors at Victory Monument. 

Many of the protestors' signs were in English, which is convenient but many also included liberal use of the "f word," which is inconvenient. 

Police did not make any attempt to break up the protest at Victory Monument. Further down the road, at BACC, police did make a couple of arrests and try to break up a similar protest and in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, there were shootings and several arrests.

I don't think Saturday was a good day for the junta. The military has banned political gatherings of more than five people. That prohibition was widely ignored Saturday. Soldiers and police generally backed down when confronted by protestors and anger against the junta was palpable on the street. The crowd of protestors wasn't very big, probably just a couple of hundred, but people lined the road to cheer for them and the crowd at Victory Monument kept growing throughout the afternoon and evening.

More protests are planned for Sunday, including one in Ratchaprasong, the scene of violence in 2010. The military has not said how they will handle those protests. 
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. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Now We Know...

What is in a name

Thai soldiers block a street in Bangkok after the army said that on second thought it was not martial law, that it was a coup.

File this in the "I Told You So" drawer. What was originally called "Martial Law" morphed into a full blown coup in about 60 hours. 

General Prayuth Chan-ocha summoned most of the national civilian political leadership in Thailand to a meeting at the Army Club on Wednesday (including the Pheu Thai leaders, the Democrats leaders and Suthep and his allies), about 30 hours after the declaration of martial law. Some politicians were apparently apprehensive about meeting with the generals under the circumstances so Gen. Prayuth promised immunity and that nobody would be arrested at the meetings Wednesday. 
Soldiers patrol the PDRC anti-government protest site Friday morning. 

The talks Wednesday didn't have any results so they were continued into Thursday. Nothing came of the meetings Thursday, so the General arrested all of the politicians as the meeting broke up Thursday afternoon and declared the armed forces in charge. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

In the Bag

The other stuff I carry in my camera bag: credentials, sunglasses, gaffer tape and more. 

Most photographers I know carry a lot more than just cameras in our camera bags. In fact our camera bags are really pretty close to being the man-purse pioneered by television comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

Here's what I carry in my man-purse.

Press credentials: I always have a couple of sets of press credentials with me. I also have my green arm band from the Thai Broadcast Journalist Association stuffed into the bag. I put them on when I'm working in a protest area or around a breaking news scene.

Notebooks: Plural. I have a couple of Moleskine notebooks in my bag. One is for note taking when I'm on stories, the other is for taking notes not related to stories (shopping lists, phone numbers, email addresses etc). My background as a journalist is showing here. I never leave home without a notebook and a couple of pens. But hey, I don't use pocket protectors.

Spare batteries: Okay so this is directly related to the cameras but in a day when every camera is battery dependent it's worth pointing out. I always have a spare battery for my Canon cameras and at least one spare battery for my Micro 4:3 cameras. Battery life in the Canons is terrific. Nearly 1000 frames per battery and I seldom actually have to use the spare Canon battery. Battery life in the M4:3 is pretty bad. Under 300 frames per battery. I frequently end up using the battery in the camera and the spare. If I'm going out for a long day of photography I carry three spares for the Micro 4:3 camera.

Ear plugs: When I was working for newspapers I frequently had assignments in noisy industrial areas or noisy night clubs. Now I frequently find myself in noisy whistle blowing crowds. I have ear plugs in almost every camera bag, camera belt pack or computer bag I own. I use them all the time.

Gaffer Tape: Like it's more famous cousin Duct Tape only better. Gaffer tape has thousands of uses. Covering a media event where everyone has a spot on a riser? Mark your little piece of heaven (AKA shooting position) with gaffer tape. Need to tape a scrim to a window to block an obnoxious highlight? Gaffer tape doesn't leave sticky residue. Riding in a small boat on the open ocean and your fuel line springs a leak? Fix it with gaffer tape. (That happened to me in Florida a long time ago. Line sprung a leak, patched with the gaffer tape on my bag.) Your light leaky Holga has one light leak to many? Gaffer tape will fix that. And if you're wondering a gaffer is the head electrician on a film set.

iPhone Battery: I love my iPhone but like my cameras it's only as good as the battery and when I'm working my iPhone battery is quickly depleted. I have a battery pack on the iPhone, which dramatically extends my run time but I also carry Mophie Powerstation. It's an external battery pack that can recharge phones (any phone with the right adaptor), tablets and USB devices.

Sound recorder: We live in a multimedia world and that means recording sound. I use a Zoom H1 recorder. It's tiny, reliable and has decent quality. It's not perfect though. Battery life is not very good and it can be a little fidgety to set up.

Headlamp or flashlight: For obvious reasons. Sometimes we find ourselves in the dark. A headlamp is nice because it leaves your hands free. A flashlight is slightly smaller but less convenient. I got mine at REI in the US for about $20.

Sunglasses: Because my future's so bright I gotta wear shades.

Poncho: It can rain at anytime and I find umbrellas too bulky. I have a bunch of cheap (less than $1) ponchos which are essentially disposable. I get caught in a rainstorm, I bust out the poncho. I throw it away when it quits raining or when I get home.

Amulet: A Bangkok motorcycle taxi driver gave me an amulet when I was covering the Thai army crackdown against Red Shirt protestors in 2010. I've carried one since then.

Toilet paper: Because as we learned in Scouts, "Be Prepared." (And not pictured because, well, it's toilet paper.)

That's what I almost always have in my bag that's not directly camera related (except for the batteries). What doodads do you carry to complete the kit?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What's In a Name?

Thai soldiers relax in the back of a truck in central Bangkok shortly after martial law was declared

Thailand's political drama took a sharp turn into the unknown Tuesday when General Prayuth Chan-ocha, commander of the Royal Thai Army, declared martial law and put soldiers on the streets of Bangkok. 

The General was quick to point out that it's not a coup and that martial law is authorized under a constitution promulgated about 100 years ago. He said the current constitution (passed in 2007) was still in effect and that the military would ensure peace and stability in Thailand.  
Soldiers at a checkpoint in Ratchaprasong Intersection

Thailand has a long and checkered history with coups. A coup in 1932 abolished the absolute monarchy and set the country on its unsteady path to democracy. It's generally reported that there have been 11 coups since then. Some have been bloody, some not. Some replaced elected governments, others replaced unelected military governments. 

Early Tuesday, General Prayuth made an announcement on television that he was invoking martial law and we woke to soldiers in the streets and new guidelines on what could be reported and what couldn't be. He also ordered TV stations affiliated with the political parties to go off the air and ordered other broadcast outlets to carry army approved news as the army sees fit.
Gen. Prayuth walks into a meeting with military officers and members of Thai society

The General says it's not a coup but a lot of people disagree with him. Time magazine said if it looks like a coup and smells like a coup, it's a coup, while an aide to the interim caretaker Prime Minister (who replaced Yingluck Shinawatra, ousted by the courts in a "judicial coup" two weeks ago) called it "half a coup.

I went out early Tuesday morning to photograph soldiers on the street and public reaction to "martial law." What I found was startling normality. There were a few soldiers out in key intersections but by and large the beat of the city went on as if nothing had happened. 

I spent the afternoon at the "Army Club," a sprawling recreational complex for Thai army officers. Gen. Prayuth selected the club as the venue for his meetings with members of Thai civil society. We (me and several hundred other journalists) photographed Thai movers and shakers as they arrived for their meeting with Prayuth. Many of them looked like they were being summoned to the principal's office in school. When the meeting started we rushed into the hall for about five minutes of photography (no questions) allowed before being asked to leave. 
A pro-democracy protestor at the vigil Tuesday night.

I left the Army Club to come home and edit. I start editing and got word of a pro-democracy vigil in central Bangkok, so I rushed down to the vigil. There were about 100 people there, many with their mouths taped shut (to symbolize the loss of free speech). As it got dark people lit their candles. 
Holding up candles.

It was a long day. At least for now, the declaration of marial law hasn't changed much. The Red Shirts are still protesting (in support of the government) at Aksa Road, on the edge of Bangkok, and the Yellow Shirts PDRC are still protesting (against the government) all along Ratchdamnoen Ave from Government House down to Democracy Monument. 

Gen Prayuth has issued sweeping orders curtailing political speech and granting the army broad powers of arrest. But so far he hasn't announced a new Prime Minister and, at least officially, the Pheu Thai still governs on the civilian side and the constitution is still in effect. So we continue to wait. 

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. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Less Is More

A worker rakes salt in a pond near Samut Songkhram, made with my 40mm "pancake" lens.

One of the things I've noticed working with new photographers is a tendency to include as much in the photo as possible. Stand back, use a short or medium wide lens and make a record of the scene. This works for some photos but there is a lot more to see; it's time to push beyond the obvious.

I made these photos early one morning while I was working on a story about salt farmers in central Thailand. The top photo is one of the first photos I made. I used my 40mm lens to photograph the workers raking up the salt in the briny pond.
Salt being raked up in Samut Songkhram. This picture was made the same day as the top photo, in the same salt pond, within moments of when the top photo was made. This was made at 280mm, a 200mm telephoto with a Canon 1.4X teleconverter.

Because of my background in journalism and newspapers, as both an editor and a photographer, I know many times publications are looking for pictures that they can use as small detail photos or as secondary art.

After I had a selection of photos of workers in the pond I started looking for less obvious choices. I watched the rhythm of the work and the way the water flowed around the salt rakes and I liked what I saw. I couldn't get to close to the work because I would get in the way of the workers so I put my 200mm lens on the camera and it was still too loose for the picture I had in mind, so I put my 1.4X teleconverter to get a nearly 300mm lens. In this case I was not using the telephoto as a classic telephoto; I was using it as more of a macro lens. What you see there is the full, uncropped, frame.

I use this recipe a lot.

Like most of the journalists in Bangkok, I've spent a fair amount of time on the streets the last few months covering the political situation. This week I photographed Suthep Thaugsuban at the Thai Parliament building.

First I photographed the wide scenes of Suthep and his supporters blocking a Bangkok street.
Suthep and his supporters block a road leading to the Parliament complex. Made with a 24mm lens. 

During the protests I usually work with two cameras, one with a wide angle lens and one with a telephoto lens. As soon as I finished photographing Suthep with the wide angle, I brought up the camera with the telephoto and photographed him with a 100mm lens.
Moments later, made from the same place with a 100mm lens. 

Then I switched lenses to the longer 200mm telephoto and photographed him again. Because I'm an old Luddite, I don't usually use zooms so I'm constantly changing lenses from wide angle to telephoto (which is also one of the reasons I carry two camera bodies). This exercise would be even easier and faster with zooms.
A couple of minutes later, made with a 200mm lens. 

The next time you're out photographing try including less in your pictures and see if you end up with more.

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. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Vesak

Buddhist monks lead a procession around Wat That Thong on Vesak. 

Vesak is the most sacred of Theravada Buddhist holy days. It marks three important occasions in the Buddha's life: his birth, his enlightenment and his death. The three events are marked as separate holy days in the Mahayana tradition, but Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Nepal and other Theravada countries Vesak is a very important holy day. 

Last year I photographed Vesak at a Burmese temple in Mae Sot. This year I stayed in Bangkok. I went to Wat That Thong, a few blocks from our Bangkok apartment. 
People gather on the plaza in Wat That Thong before Vesak services started. The streaked lights are from candles people carried as they walked around the temple. 

The temple complex was packed. Thousands of people streamed into the complex throughout the evening. When the wihan (prayer hall) filled, people sat on the steps around it. Inside, monks chanted. Outside some people prayed quietly while other walked in a procession around the wihan. 

When the monks finished their chanting they participated in a procession around the temple. At some temples I've been to monks led the lay people around the temple. At Wat That Thong, monks walked around the wihan's portico while the lay people walked around the wihan at ground level. 

On the edges of the plaza, people lit candles and incense and made merit by leaving flowers or cash donations. 
Vesak 2014 - Images by Jack Kurtz

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. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mr. Suthep Goes to Parliament

Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the Thai anti-government movement, asks people to clear the way into the side gate of the Thai Parliament during the protest Monday.

The anti-government protestors moved their protest site from Lumpini Park back to Democracy Monument Monday. Protestors also descended on the Parliament to ask the Senate to impose a new Prime Minister on Thailand.
A PDRC protestor cheers for Suthep in front of the Parliament.

Former PM, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted by the courts last week. The court also ousted nine members of her cabinet but left the rest of the cabinet intact and the Prime Minister's position fell to the ranking surviving member of the cabinet. Suthep got some of what he wanted (Yingluck out of the body politic) but not all of what he wanted (the Shinawatra clan out of the body politic) and since he's demanding all or nothing and refusing to negotiate, the court's ruling wasn't enough. 

Yingluck dissolved the Parliament last year and called new parliamentary elections. Suthep organized a boycott of the election and ruffians, allegedly aligned with Suthep, violently disrupted electoral registration and voting and the electoral commission nullified the election. As a result, there is no functioning lower house of parliament (called the Parliament). 

In Thailand's bicameral system, the upper house of the parliament, called the Senate, is elected separately. About half of the Senate is elected and half appointed. Populists in Thailand maintain that the selection method of the Senators ensures that the Senate is mostly anti-Pheu Thai (the ruling party). Members of the political minority maintain that it's a part of checks and balances. In any case, the Senate is decidedly less friendly to Pheu Thai and the Shinawatra dynasty than the lower house. 
Soldiers guard the front of the Senate. 

Suthep is demanding the Senate, with the courts' assistance, appoint a new PM but it's not clear that they have the constitutional authority to do so, at least so long as there is a Pheu Thai Prime Minister. Previous court rulings, what some call "judicial coups," in Thailand have resulted in the ruling party being banned in which case the task of creating a government falls to the remaining parties. Which is how Thailand ended up with a Democrat government in 2009-2010 (the Democrat government was not elected and were trounced in the 2011 election). Pheu Thai has not been banned yet so it's not clear that the Senate or the courts have the legal authority to name a new PM. 
Suthep meets with representatives of the Senate before marching into the Parliament to meet with the Senate leadership.

Suthep arrived at the Parliament to a hero's welcome late in the afternoon. His supporters blocked the roads around the building. Suthep and a couple of hundred supporters marched to the side entrance and blocked the street until representatives of the Senate leadership came out to talk to him. 

After a brief negotiation, Suthep stood, and to a roar of approval from the crowd, marched into a meeting with Senate leadership. The media scrambled to follow him in. 
Suthep walks into the Senate meeting and sees how many photographers and reporters were waiting. 

The public part of the meeting was very brief. Suthep greeted the acting Speaker of the Senate, pleasantries were exchanged and then the media was asked to leave. 
Suthep (left) and Surachai Liangboonlertchai, acting Speaker of the Senate. 

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.