Bangkok Boating Park Becomes Focus of Thai Protests
Bangkok – A green oasis in downtown Bangkok was slowly beginning to resemble a tent city on Saturday, a day after anti-government protesters said they would clear camps blocking key intersections and congregate in the park instead. The protesters have blocked some streets since mid-January in their bid to push out Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and eradicate the influence of her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, seen as the real power in Thailand.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban’s supporters are to move to Lumpini Park, where many protesters already sleep in tents near an established protest stage on the edge of the Silom financial district. The tents are slowly filling up the park, most under the shade of trees and blue awnings and next to boating lakes, with washing lines strung between branches.
“We will stop closing Bangkok and give every intersection back to Bangkokians. We will stop closing Bangkok from Monday,” Suthep told supporters on Friday. “But we will escalate our shutdown of government ministries and Shinawatra businesses.” Protesters plan a big cleaning-up day on Sunday before opening roads on Monday but at least two affiliated groups plan to stay put at their protest sites, including one led by a controversial Buddhist monk.
“I was angry with Suthep’s announcement,” monk Luang Pu Buddha Issara told Reuters. “We have lost blood and lives and for what? To end it all now?” Protest numbers have dwindled amid attacks on various camps with grenades and guns. Three people were killed when a grenade was thrown into a busy shopping area near one camp on Sunday.
In total, 20 people have been killed in protest-related violence in Bangkok since November 30 and three in the eastern province of Trat. The threat of violence has taken a toll on tourism in the capital, even though most areas have been unaffected, including the old part of town by the river and the Khao San Road backpacker district frequented by westerners, many of whom, regardless of age, dress like hippies. “Business is good here. As good as ever. There is no politics here,” a restaurant worker said on Friday. (Reuters)