Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thai Protesters Revel, the Government Reels and the Army Wavers

With soldiers back in their barracks three days after a convulsion of political violence, antigovernment demonstrators took up squirt guns in central Bangkok on Tuesday to dedicate themselves to the start of the annual water festival.

Scenes of soaked and laughing Thais alternated on television with terrifying images of the late-night battles Saturday filled with gunfire, the flash of explosions, and the screams of wounded soldiers being dragged to safety.

The splashing and singing had the look of a victory celebration as the red-shirted protesters, who have been demanding that the government step aside and call new elections, reveled in their impunity; the paralyzed government appears unable to wait them out or to stop them by force. On Tuesday, it found itself on the defensive following an Election Commission recommendation that the ruling party be dissolved for electoral fraud and a statement by the chief of the armed forces that called into question his loyalty.

The protesters said they would push forward on Wednesday with more marches and more challenges to government control in a monthlong campaign that, after withstanding the military’s attempt to crush them, re-embraced the nonviolent stubbornness of a “people power” uprising.

With their slogans and chants and their defiance of military force, their protest seemed consciously to be mimicking the popular revolts of the Philippines, Georgia, Serbia and Ukraine.

But Thailand is unusual in that it has seen competing “people power” campaigns over the past three years — the so-called Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts — that have sought to bring down governments from opposite sides of the political divide.

Further, despite the language they use, neither side is truly democratic.

To read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/world/asia/14thai.html?ref=asia


Protesters celebrated Songkran, the traditional Thai new year and water festival, during an anti-government rally in Bangkok on Tuesday.
Photo: Julian Abram Wainwright/European Pressphoto Agency
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/world/asia/14thai.html?ref=asia

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