Shut Down Bangkok

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Evident with the ‘Shut Down Bangkok’ campaign was the very serious intention to bring down the government of Yingluck Shinawatra and the almost festive atmosphere. A sense of happy relief that they, the people of Thailand in Bangkok were now resolute and determined in their intent to, bring the premiership of the prime minister to a close. No more puppet government of the exiled brother Thaksin Shinawatra! 
 
With these aims in mind, that variation of people came out on to the streets, set up tents closed down essential roads in the very centre of the commercial tourist world - famous shopping malls. They set up stages with the intention of delivering a continuation of political speeches rallying the party faithful into confirmation and to capture the unconverted. All of the serious speeches were often separated by loud music sometimes performed by very professional artists. 
 
Street stalls were in abundance and this could have easily been interpreted as the revolt of the street trader. The merchandise selling was a plethora of cause related goods from wrist bands, jewellery T-shirts and mini mouse head bows, all bearing the tricolours of the red white and blue Barely a red or yellow shirt in sight. This was a show of Thai nationalist unity in revolt against the elected government of Thailand. 
 
Amongst all the theory and rhetoric bandied around the world media, involved in the demonstrations, were the younger professionals who apparently, consider themselves to be taking Thailand forward and contributing a hefty sum of money into the Thai economy. Discontent with the old order of wealth and favour and the poorer people who see service to these wealthier classes as not only a source of income, but the giving of service as honourable. 
 
Consistent with business in Thailand, women were in their own right, coming forward in obstructing the entrance to buildings, selling cause connected merchandise squatting territory by setting up tents and amongst other things distributing free food to demonstrators and tourists alike. But for all that, although the front of the MBK shopping centre was turned into an open air auditorium supporting an enormous stage, once having steered their way around encampments and stalls, business inside the Malls was as usual for international shoppers. Cafe life at the Mandarine Oriental inside the Paragon Centre was as vital as ever. 
 
On the first of February, a group of people assembled in the street adjacent to to the main road in China town. They formed a continuous line and stretched pink and tricoloured plastic raffia along that line. Onto the raffia they stapled Thai bank notes of various denominations. This was a protest against the over and non payment for the rice crop to farmers in the north of Thailand. As the line spread through the adjoining small street right into an incredible almost unique situation, that of money chain protest meets February first and full-on Chinese new year celebrations. The small street were filled with ladened open- backed trucks, coming from the opposite direction, their cargo, protesters and sound broadcast equipment. Here, in lucky red dresses women expressed both happiness for the year of the horse and anger at the current regime, almost in equal measure. 
 
Street performers of the dragon dance were usurped by the sheer power of the protesters and the the now universal symbol of demonstrators everywhere in the world, that elongated sheet of a national flag being manhandled above the heads of the crowd. 
 
On the back of a pick- up truck photojournalist shoot pictures of the crowd, in particular, a small group of people dressed in red shirts. The press in the back of a pickup truck and a group of men standing in the street look suspiciously like plain clothes policemen. Further up the street, as part of the celebrations a group of noodle makers demonstrate their skills. 
 
On the 18th February one hundred metres from the Democracy Monument next to the 18th Century Mahakan fort and to the side of the Pan Fah bridge, the police abducted the popular protest leader, Somkiat Pongpaiboon. They were attempting to close down one of the major protest sites. After various angry exchanges, tempers on both sides reached breaking point, policemen were killed and protesters injured as police responded by firing live rounds into the crowd. The police eventually withdraw to the other side of the Democracy Monument, but the protesters advanced turning over unmarked police vehicles. 
 
One week later, the upturned vehicles still strewn across Thanon Ratchamnoen Klang. Tourists point at number plates confirming that these had been indeed, unmarked police vehicles. This is a major road that has often been used to transport royalty around Bangkok. 
 
With the boycotting of the election in February, although there were some peaceful attempts to set up polling stations, such as in the area of Bamlampu-Khosan  It is difficult to know what form of government will be instated next. 
 
Yingluck Shinawatra is thought by many to have won her position legally by democratic process and would have been re-elected in the February vote. 
 
What ever the outcome of this continuous unrest and violent protests, eighteen coups in eighty one years, it is the dispossessed, young elderly and vulnerable that will be the natural victims of this continuous conflict.
 
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