These protesters are directing their anger at prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, her exiled brother Thaksin, and their Puea Thai party. During the last round of major Bangkok protests, back in 2010, nearly 100 were killed. Those protests were in support of Thaksin and some government critics—as well as a report by Human Rights Watch—say that most of the casualties then, and the casualties now, are coming from mercenaries on the Thaksin payroll.
Either way, Yingluck has declared a "state of emergency" allowing the government to (further) censor media, impose curfews, detain suspects without charges, ban political gatherings of more than five people, and declare parts of Bangkok off-limits.
After weeks of terrorism aimed at protesters, the regime of Thaksin Shianwatra has declared the protests as "violent" in another stunning indictment of its illegitimacy to lead the country.
Our Man in Thailand says the shutdown has "metastasized" in Bangkok:
Today I walked for three hours past thousands of tents, hundreds of thousands of Thais wearing pink and yellow, three very amplified rally stages with two angry speakers, and two cute line dance bands. I only saw a fraction of the rally sites, as this protest is taking place all over town. There will be blocks with no protesters—only Gucci stores or nearly empty “Coyote” bars abutting six-lane streets that are barricaded with tires and sandbags left over from the flood. Large half-roof structures have been built in the middle of roads to shelter protester tent cities. Makeshift street hospitals, water trucks, free food stalls, unofficial guards directing foot traffic (somewhat menacing looking in their face mask and camouflage jacket uniforms), and outdoor massage tables all make the protests look like a outdoor version of normal Thai life. And then I walk another block and I am in a Japanese neighborhood with its curry restaurants, karaoke joints, and sake bars. The only evidence of the protests is the noise of the whistles carrying over. Walk a few more blocks and the protests start again.
Despite the bombs and bullets aimed at protesters, he says, no arrests have been reported. The mood is like a somber carnival and protest-themed swag has exploded into the sidewalk markets:
I counted 20 different T-shirt designs before I quit counting from Mickey Mouse as a protester to just the number 9 in Thai (the King’s number), to my favorite—gold lamé shutdown shirts. Whistles (as this is the whistle protest) of every type, price range and size, hair clips, wristbands, face painters, Mickey Mouse ears, buttons and so on to infinity, all in protest themes. I saw burkas sewn with protest trim and cartoon artists drawing funny protest souvenir drawings of the big head, small car variety. Think of something dumb that humans buy and there is a protest version of it somewhere. The miles of protesters have attracted miles of new things to buy. Does this happen during any other angry protests?
For more background on the protests, see this post on the—pro-protester and anti-Thaksin—blog Land Destroyer eviscerating TIME magazine's shallow coverage of the events in Thailand.