Red rallying

12 03 2010

The red shirts have been assembling in and around Bangkok and that goes further today. One of the interesting things is that the Abhisit Vejjajiva-led royalist government seems to be backing away from its panic of the past few days. Reports of the numbers of red shirts are now lower than those panicked responses indicated. For example, the Bangkok Post (12 March 2010) now says that security officials are now estimating “between 70,000 and 100,000 red shirt demonstrators at the rally’s peaks.

The Nation (12 March 2010) cites a “security analysis and red-shirt sources [that] show the number of northeasterners projected to attend this weekend’s rallies in Bangkok will be no more than 35,900, down from the original projection of 253,000.”

The same report states that “police and military checkpoints have been set up along all main routes leading to Bangkok, in order to stop red-shirt demonstrators from reaching the capital. Provincial authorities are trying to convince local residents not to travel to Bangkok while preparing protective measures against local rallies in their jurisdictions.”

In addition, “Provincial land-transport offices are requiring operators of buses and commuter trucks to receive permission before stopping their services and transporting demonstrators to Bangkok. They deny requiring permission is an attempt to prevent red shirts from travelling.” But that was a fib, because “Provincial Police Office 5 later issued a warning that operators transporting people to Bangkok without permission could have their concessions revoked.”

In fact, there is an all-out government effort to keep protestors from reaching Bangkok. Perhaps these efforts are having a considerable impact on red shirt travel.

The government is protecting the king with strong measures. Last night and today, television news is that the government has closed off the area around Siriraj hospital where the king has been ensconced for 6 months. This includes preventing river traffic that is not “normal” for quite a stretch up and down river.

Responding to this, red shirt leader Natthawut Saikua dismissed rumours that large numbers of red shirts would land at Tha Prachan Pier in a bid to reach Siriraj Hospital… (The Nation, 12 March 2010). It is reported that “joint police and military security is tight at the hospital and the surrounding area, where traffic is now closed until March 23.

Natthawut continued the red shirt attacks on Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, claiming that Prem “summoned Bangkok police chief Lt-General Santhan Chayanont and ordered him to carry out anti-DAAD actions, such as refusing bail for any red-shirt leaders who were arrested. He also alleged Prem had pledged extra funding for government efforts against the citywide rallies from a commercial bank and a conglomerate.” Defiantly, Natthawut challenged Prem: “This proves Prem is now fully involved against the red-shirt movement. I challenge him to deny this….