Red Shirts Paralyze Central Bangkok, Malls Closed

Picture of #redshirts in front of Central World looking south to the stage/intersection (Courtesy of Richard Barrow)

This is (yet) a(nother) make-or-break situation for the anti-government protests by the red shirts as they roamed the streets of Bangkok yet again at the beginning of their fourth week (and since we already have April, it makes the wordplay 'Red March' redundant). On Saturday tens of thousands have gathered and are now blocking the area around Rajprasong Intersection, a large commercial district in central Bangkok with the largest shopping malls (Central World, Siam Paragon, Siam Center, Siam Discovery, MBK, Central Chidlom etc.). Most of these malls have closed now and looking at the pictures coming out of there, the roads are now a sea of reds.

(Pictures courtesy of Richard Barrow)

One notable incident today was an 18-year old boy running his Porsche into a few parked red shirt motorcycles. AP has pointed out this interesting bit:

Police, who found a handgun in the car, later identified the driver as Thanat Thanakitamnuay, grandson of prominent businessman and former Deputy Prime Minister Amnuay Viravan.

"This is just what's wrong with this country. A rich man can drive into protesters and get away," said Sakda, a factory worker from suburban Bangkok. He declined to give his full name.

"Thai protesters occupy capital's commercial center", Associated Press via Washington Post, April 3, 2010

The quote is hardly surprising and the symbolism of this incident is also very obvious. As for the brat who has driven the Porsche, I predict that daddy will sort everything out for him. Shame for the car, though.

Meanwhile, the red shirts have vowed to stay overnight at the Rajprasong Intersection despite the government saying they have gone "too far" with the most recent blockade and also imposing a deadline for the protestors to leave at 9 PM Bangkok time. As of writing this blog post, the deadline has passed but police have announced that the negotiating talks with the red shirts failed as they refuse to leave (duh!). Police will try to talk again on Sunday morning.

It is the first time the red shirt protests have become a real inconvenience for the people of Bangkok as the protestors have now occupied the real heart of the city around Rajprasong Intersection, Rama I Road and Ploen Chit Road. The area is not only a busy commercial district with high-profile shopping centers, malls and hotels, but also the intersection of the two BTS lines (Siam), the location of the Erawan Shrine and thus, needless to say, a popular area among tourists. This weekend will be interesting to watch how long the patience of Bangkokians will last until the ongoing protest of the red shirt will start to backfire and lose support.

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