Sunday, March 05, 2006
THAIS RALLY AGAIN IN SANAM LUANG
ast Sunday's mass rally at the Royal Grounds of Sanam Luang was not dampened by the Prime Minister's surprise advance call for snap elections (cutting them off at the pass, as it were). Tonight, the protesters are calling it their final stand. Tens of thousands were filling the area by early evening, and there has been an announcement that the demonstrators will proceed later tonight to the Democracy Monument. They intend to occupy the monument until Taksin resigns.
This news brings back vivid and terrible and inspiring memories of 1992. I'd gone to Sanam Luang to witness a bit of Thai history in the making, as the broader society said "No!" in one voice, to military rule. The focus was one General Suchinda Kraprayoon, and the unity cry was "Ork Bai!" -- Get Out! That's what they're chanting tonight at PM Taksin Shinawatra.
I had left the grounds just before the end of the program, and joined hundreds of others walking up the middle of Rachadamnern Avenue toward the towering Democracy Monument, a massive traffic circle along this now traffic-less major thoroughfare. Just beyond the monument, police had already closed the way with rolls of razor wire across the Phan Faa Bridge, and the initial confrontation was sparked at that moment, as I watched, carried along by the thousands now running toward the blockade. That night developed into a standoff, army troops replacing the police on one side of the little canal bridge, tens of thousand of citizens on the other. Left with not much choice, I stayed put with the citizens, on the grass of an adjacent temple. There was unprovoked shooting that night, and the first deaths of the three day unrest that followed.
The police have handled things very smartly until now, and I expect that cool handed leadership will continue tonight. The worry is of "third hands" -- the type of instigators or provocateurs who had been responsible for much of the arson and destruction which took place 14 years ago. Amazingly though, a senior military officer last week mentioned the possibility of military coup if things deteriorated further. I really doubt it, and his comments were roundly denied by other military figures. This afternoon some emminent citizens, representing the 95 prominent Thais who had signed it, delivered a petition to His Majesty, appealing for an interim government.
Read the latest at The Nation, and the Bangkok Post. The Nation, as with the past demonstrations, is running real time coverage of events in Sanam Luang tonight. I'm watching Asia Satellite TV's live video (click one of the url's in the upper right of the page), as the regular tv channels are sticking with soap operas and game shows tonight.
UPDATE (midnight): Better quality video is here.