Saturday, February 11, 2006
BANGKOK PRO-DEMOCRACY DEMO
ens of thousands are gathering at this hour at the Royal Plaza, a reprise of last weekend's mass rally demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Taksin Shinawatra. Reports already indicate an increased attendance from last weekend's 60,000 (The Nation newspaper had cited 100,000). Police had been ordered by the government to prevent people gathering on the Plaza, adjacent to Government House, and to prevent the presence of PA equipment, etc. Apparently the police officials had second thoughts about attempting this, and have allowed the demonstration to proceed as planned. Public figures have been speaking from the stage since around 4pm, and organisers have promised the rally would end at midnight.
Other rallies have been reported in provincial centres, as well as pro-Taksin rallies. The PM himself has taken refuge in the "troubled south" -- presumably it's less troubled, from his perspective, than his capital is today. It's great to see the good cooperation between the police and demonstrators. There were worries earlier today that the government's ban would lead to confrontation, and there have been warnings of possible provocateur activity as well as anti-demonstration groups. There are cool hands directing the police force on the scene, and this is very good. The stage and PA system were set up, and a speaker asked the crowd to applaud the police commander, as apology for some booing by protesters when he walked through the site earlier. Later this evening an announcer read a police statement, thanking the people for demonstrating peacefully, and asking to be alerted by them of any untoward events.
The movement is now being led by a coalition called People's Alliance for Democracy, with less emphasis on the media figure Sondhi Limthongkul, who has been leading the drive to oust Taksin. The PAD appears to be a broad swath of civic groups like Campaign for Popular Democracy, student organisations, academics and union leaders. Politicians of course, including nominally non-affiliated senators, have also showed up tonight. Sondhi himself is now back on the stage, with a blistering attack on Taksin.
Live updates on The Nation: From the Royal Plaza and 2Bangkok -- just keep refreshing the pages. Some photos from last Saturday are here and here.