The Occupy Bangkok protests against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, her exiled brother Thaksin, and snap elections on Feb 2 have been rolling along for three days. (It might seem strange to protest both the government in power and an opportunity to vote them out of power, but experts say Yingluck's party would win a popular national election via the rural poor, Huey Long-style—it's a minority of mostly urban Democrats who are angry.)
Highlighting the threat of violence in the deeply polarized country, a protester was injured in a shooting Wednesday morning and the compound of a former prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, was damaged by a small explosion. Mr. Abhisit, the head of the Democrat Party, was not home at the time of the blast.
Four plainclothes police officers were hospitalized overnight after being beaten by the protesters, according to the police. The government has been praised by foreign governments for its restraint in handling the protests but police officers recently held their own protest demanding more protection. One police officer was shot dead last month as protesters tried to block the registration for elections.
In two months of protests, a total of eight people have been killed and more than 477 injured.
Our man in Bangkok (OMIB), who says the US embassy has recommended that foreigners stock up on weeks' worth of food and water and/or get out of town, writes that the mood is almost festive:
The thing I've noticed is that despite the occasion, humans love it when cities are closed and they get to hang out in them without cars—when the noise and potential danger of traffic is eliminated and we have the whole street to associate in.
For whatever reason, it seems that these times are the only ones when I really start to identify with people in my neighborhood on a geographical basis rather than social, economic or convenience reasons. This does not mask or ameliorate sadness or anger but there is a weird positivity that is real when people reclaim cities and associate in groups.
I’ve seen this in the Loma Prieta earthquake, the Rodney King and anti-Gulf War protests in San Francisco, the WTO demonstrations in Seattle, the week of the 9/11 attacks in New York, and one or two other times...
Of course in Thailand it seems like it is even more friendly and safe. I love seeing the tents on the streets and actually being able to walk without having to dodge potholes.
Of course, I only experienced a tiny amount of the protests... Two things I can say though is that there is a far better variety of street cart food in my area, which was amazing even before the protesters started camping out. Also, I have no idea where these 100,000s of thousands are cleaning up but it is spotless.
It's been said many times, but it's worth saying again—cities are at their best, even during a crisis, when they're centered around the welfare and mobility of humans instead of cars.