‘Bangkok shutdown’ begins as protesters occupy key areas: Tens of thousands of Thai anti-government protesters occupied key areas of the capital on Monday as they continued their bid to oust caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The flag-waving, whistle-blowing crowds massed at key intersections, occupying streets, blocking roads, and setting up rally stages.
The well-organised movement has vowed to continue the “shutdown” until the prime minister resigns, while threatening to disrupt the February 2 snap election she called when they forced her to dissolved parliament several weeks ago.
“This is a people’s revolution,” declared fiery protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former opposition Democrat Party heavyweight who was deputy premier in the last Democrat-led government less than three years ago.
He told reporters that in the eyes of the protesters, Yingluck is “no longer prime minister”, as he lead a huge crowd of marching supporters through the heart of Bangkok.
One hardcore faction of the movement is threatening to besiege the stock exchange and air traffic control if Ms. Yingluck does not step down within days, according to reports.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a former Thai diplomat and associate professor at Japan’s Kyoto University, warned “It’s going to be very volatile”.
“In a way there is no turning back for the protesters — they have come too far,” he noted.
Many schools closed and some residents stockpiled food and water, but the did not come to a complete halt.
The skytrains and subways were running as usual, shops and restaurants remained open, and the demonstrators promised to leave one lane unblocked at each intersection to allow ambulances and buses to pass.
As is usual with street protests in Thailand, there was a carnival atmosphere at the rally sites. But protests have a history of suddenly turning bloody, often at night and often involving unidentified gunmen evidently seeking to incite violence and chaos.
Eight people have been killed and many more injured since the protests began over two months ago.