Mass protests are planned to begin today in Bangkok aimed at shutting down the city for up to 20 days. Some 20,000 security force personnel will be on the streets in the initial days, with Thai army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha warning that the army will not tolerate violence between anti-government protesters and government supporters.
Violence has so far been relatively sparse in the political standoff. However, perhaps as omen of what is to come, on Saturday morning seven people were injured when unknown gunmen opened fire on protesters camped out. The attack, which occurred under cloak of darkness, was the second by unknown gunmen on the protesters. On 28 December, a protester was killed and several others wounded in a similar incident involving an unidentified gunmen.
Police stated last week that 26 weapons stolen from them during anti-government protests in Bangkok last month were still unaccounted for. Included in that mix were six shotguns, several handguns and pistols as well as a dozen tear gas launchers.
Protesters, led by former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, have declared they will shut down the Bangkok and force a resignation of PM Yingluck Shinawatra before they install an unelected people’s council that will undertake reforms. They plan to blockade key intersections across the city before attempting to cut water and electricity supply. The armed forces has sent more than two dozen companies of troops to protect important ministries and utilities.
Blockades were already beginning to take hold on Sunday afternoon, 12 hours earlier than announced. A live map of current blockaded streets, compiled by travel blogger Richard Barrow, can be found here.
Worryingly, pro-government supporters, known as Red Shirts, are planning their own protests in the outer suburbs of Bangkok. The international media in particular continues to talk about a coup (the most strident voice is here), and others of civil war. If pro-government Red Shirt protesters collide with anti-government forces the likelihood of violence is high.
A call to abduct General Prayuth’s daughters if he stages a coup was circulated on social media by little known Thaksin’s Friend Group. While such calls are not uncommon in the tense climate, which has been driven by social media, that this call has received wide media coverage and a reaction from the military command is worrying.
Photo by Flickr user Where is Your Toothbrush.