Updated: Will they get it?

14 03 2010

Update: PPT went back at about 9 p.m. and the crowd had swelled considerably and had moved onto Rajadamnoen, and out of the shade that had been so prized under the blistering sun earlier in the day. It seemed that many people from close to Bangkok had joined in, and more people from the “middle class” and workers from factories and the service sector had joined in (this is impressionistic, based on a few quick questions to people who said they couldn’t get there until after work). The festive atmosphere remained – PPT got there just after the Thaksin phone-in. Still very difficult to estimate numbers, but safe to say that most of the mainstream media estimates are way too low and the government’s figure via the Ministry of Interior – less than 50,000 – is deliberately misleading. Anyone relying on television reports of the event would have no idea what it was about and who was there. That “reporting” is shameless propaganda.

***

One of the PPT collective spent several hours at the red shirt rally at the Pan Fah Bridge and Rajadamnoen Road, from about 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The taxi driver on the way there in the morning told of taxis and buses being kept off the road today because of fears growing out of the Songkhran Uprising.

The first thing that is noticeable from PPT’s visit to the rally is that many of the estimates of its size depend entirely on which agenda is being promoted. When PPT returned to watch some television reports, one commentator at ThaiPBS claimed 5,000 in the morning and 40,000 at noon. PPT would say that this commentator was out by very large factor. Various press reports said there were 80,000 last night, and this was a police estimate. At 6 a.m, PPT would estimate some 40,000.However, most people were not at the stage area at this time. By 10.30 a.m. it took PPT a full 15 minutes to pass across the Pan Fah bridge, so thick was the crowd.

PPT walked from Lan Luang to Sanam Luang, back to Pan Fah Bridge, down Rajadamnoen Nok and all the way back to Sanam Luang, before ending up back at the Democracy Monument. PPT cannot guess how many people were there by noon. However, we can say that from Pan Fah to the end of the road closure at Rajadamnoen Nok was packed. From Pan Fah to Democracy Monument was pretty much full and from the Monument to Sanam Luang, both pavements and the first lane on each side were packed.

At 3 p.m. news reports were saying that people were still traveling in, especially on the river, where the government was trying to prevent landings by (according to ThaiPBS) some 200 vessels.

The atmosphere was reasonably festive. It was incredibly hot by 10 a.m. and almost unbearably so for those like PPT who were taking long walks through crowded areas. Lots of little things caught the eye: the small children at the rally; everyone in red, some literally from head to toe; massage available at footpath points; the red shirt crowd at the Rattanakosin Hotel watching the Manny Pacquiao vs Joshua Clottey fight; a monk writing up red shirt placards; the huge range of red paraphernalia for sale; the large number of elderly red shirts assembled; the police with all indentifying insignia and names removed from their uniforms; and so on.

The contingents of police and military were there, but relatively small groups. Larger groups were assembled at strategic points at some distance from the rally area.

Because PPT was continually moving across a wide area, it was not always easy to keep up with the speeches from the stage. A few observations can be made. One is that the speeches were devoid of nationalist and royalist references. PPT cannot recall such a determined avoidance of these symbolisms in the past. No royal symbols in the crowd at all. Heard one guy who walked upt o friends wearing a yellow shirt get quite a ribbing – we think it was the only yellow shirt PPT saw. They were replaced by calls for fairness, justice, opposition to Abhisit’s government, amart, Prem Tinsulanonda, double standards and the military (the latter tempered by statements about how many soldiers and police were “red at heart”). One of the speeches PPT heard but could not see who was making it was one that placed all of these things into a context of class warfare.

The main speech at just after midday made the call for the government to dissolve the House of Representatives within 24 hours. This call was made much earlier in the day, but this time it was by a leader – we couldn’t see, but understand it was Veera Musikapong. Very little chance of that, so the next step is tricky for both government and red shirts.

PPT doubts that many of Bangkok’s population will ever know what is being said at the rally apart from the call for the government to call an election. The media are doing a remarkably poor job of reporting what is happening, even to the point of hardly showing the crowds assembled (TNN had shown some silent shots) and, as far as we can tell, no attempt to present the views of those in the huge crowd. Most of this crowd present a profile that is very different from the “average Bangkokian.” That might seem a slightly odd statement, but there is a clear difference. It is not so much an ethnic difference, although that’s there; and it is not simplistic rich vs. poor; it is, we suspect, basically a class difference. Bangkok is very quiet outside the rally area. They’ll only be getting pro-government views from television and will never hear the issues involved, let alone understand them.

If PPT gets over sun stroke and dehydration, we might get down to the rally again later tonight, when the crowd will probably assemble and grow.


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15 03 2010
Global Voices Online » Thailand: ‘Reds’ vow a bigger rally today

[…] Prisoners in Thailand is disappointed with how the local mainstream media is reporting the rallies: PPT doubts that many of Bangkok’s population will ever know what is […]

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[…] PPT noted in our report on the red shirt rally last Sunday, the class war rhetoric is there. For some time the red shirts have resurrected and used the term […]

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Global Voices em Português » Tailândia: ‘Vermelhos’ realizam grande passeata

[…] Prisoners in Thailand ficou desapontado com a maneira que a imprensa de massa local [en] tratou as passeatas: PPT doubts that many of Bangkok’s population will ever know what is […]

24 11 2013
Bangkok Post campaign confusion | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] large crowd at Rajadamnoen yesterday. We’d estimate it as just a little smaller than the first day of the red shirt protests in March 2010. However, the Bangkok Post seems both confused and propagandist on the number joining the […]

24 11 2013
Bangkok Post campaign confusion | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] a rather large crowd at Rajadamnoen yesterday. We’d estimate it as just a little smaller than the first day of the red shirt protests in March 2010. However, the Bangkok Post seems both confused and propagandist on the number joining the […]




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