Thursday, November 07, 2013
Readers of this blog will not be surprised that, with an innocent day to myself in Bangkok, when I took the train into downtown what I encountered when approaching the famous cultural sites was this scene. All I wanted to do was walk about enough to acclimatize myself to a new timezone and feel this unfamiliar city a bit. Instead I found police, barbed wire and street protests.
The scene felt relatively light-weight, not threatening to participants or bystanders. But I know I don't know enough to get near this kind of thing in somebody else's country, so I ended up walking several miles on side streets to get around the activities. There were thousands of uniformed university students (they all look about 14 in their blue and white costumes) cheerfully milling about.
The protests seems to be an episode in Thailand's ongoing tussles about who should rule and for what purpose. These conflicts led to a military coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 amid corruption charges. Populist protests of that era were put down with force. The current government has brought a bill to give amnesty to all participants in those events; anti-amnesty crowds seem to be holding the streets. Here's a BBC clip that gives some background. To this bumbling visitor, a bizarre aspect of it all is that the current Prime Minister is the banished former Prime Minister's sister.