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Thai government keeps cool as protesters shut down Bangkok


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January 13, 2014

by Ben Arnoldy & filed under Asia, Emerging, Regions, Security, Southeast Asia/Pacific, Thailand, Topics.


A well-funded, well-organized protest movement has returned to the streets of Bangkok, shutting down seven key intersections in Bangkok with the intention of eventually toppling the Thai government. Key institutions like the central bank have switched to alternative venues away from the protests to keep the gears of the country turning. But there is no doubt the two-month-long protest movement has proven disruptive to the country’s economy.

There are two main ways that our correspondent in Bangkok can see the political paralysis ending: Either the demonstrators create enough unrest to trigger a military intervention into politics, or the patience from Bangkok’s business community runs out on the demonstrators and their movement loses support. With the government very carefully avoiding confrontation and meeting in alternate locations, the demonstrators may have a tough time forcing a change before they outstay their welcome.

“The people in Bangkok whose business rely on Bangkok functioning … have a limited level of tolerance for the city being shut down,” says our correspondent in Bangkok. “After the end of today, there isn’t an overwhelming feeling of ‘This is the beginning of the end.’ In fact, I felt very much like this was déjà vu. There were a lot of numbers, a lot of people, but it didn’t feel different like they had promised. It didn’t feel like it was enough to prompt what they are asking for.”

The central bank moved to an undisclosed location and 44 commercial bank branches were closed on Monday. Numerous government agencies were forced to operate from temporary locations, including the finance ministry, the labor ministry, the comptroller general’s department, the public debt management office, and the commerce ministry. All major shopping centers were open, but some reported being emptier than usual. An unknown number of small businesses and offices closed to allow staff to either join protests or avoid the transportation disruptions.

The tens of thousands of demonstrators are led by the urban-based political opposition, which has proven unable for years to prevail over the rural-based ruling party led by the Shinawatra clan. But the opposition does command support from members of the deep-pocketed elite and business community. Suthep Thaugsuban, the firebrand leader of the protests and former deputy prime minister, has received over $1.5 million in donations so far.

“I was standing in the street when [Mr. Suthep] walked past today one of the protest sites. And people stood 10 people deep with wads of cash in their hands; these are personal donations [to the movement],” says our correspondent.

Suthep is also getting money from high-profile backers including film stars, business leaders, and wealthy Bangkok families. That money was visible in today’s protests, as our correspondent encountered large numbers of demonstrators who had been bussed to the capital from southern rubber plantations owned by Suthep and his family. Protesters have also been given meals, tents, and boxes of saline to counter tear gas.

“Some of the protesters are saying this will all come to an end Wednesday. It’s not clear why they say that. They say it in kind of a knowing way, which suggests they know something we don’t. I haven’t seen anything to suggest it’s going to escalate,” our correspondent says.

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                                                         scare 2.jpg



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Do not think I am worrying too much when the draw to Thailand far outweighs the Fear and Media Hype



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