"Small gun battles have been breaking out in some areas in Bangkok today," writes Our Man in Thailand, "as the protesters (the yellow shirts, some of them dressed in red above for Chinese New Year) are blocking voting stations tomorrow and the reds shirts are coming in from the north to keep them open."
The yellows (which OMIT and others describe as more urban, old-school middle class and upper class, against the populist Thaksin and Yingluck regime, which some see as a kleptocracy) are hoping to disrupt the election so thoroughly that its results will be nullified. (Some political thinkers are suggesting that the middle classes—which normally tend to be pro-democracy—are opposed to the elections in this case because they think Thaksin and Yingluck have bribed and duped the "greedy" and "uneducated" rural poor who don't understand what they're really voting for.)
The yellows aren't running any candidates in tomorrow's election, so their bid for disruption is a gamble.
Either way, OMIT writes, "tomorrow could be a terrible day."
Photos are circulating around Twitter of hidden guns behind protester barricades:
My question is, how long can a city just be camped out in? If this is not resolved tomorrow, could this go on indefinitely? The protesters are not in squares or parks, they are in the major intersections in the streets—in tents all over town. Major sections of roads—think Broadway in NYC or Geary in SF—have sandbag-and-tire roadblocks and have been that way for weeks. Can people just decide to change the way a city fundamentally operates?
There are no police but the protest areas have always felt safe. A police presence actually might actually mean that it would be more dangerous as the police are rumored to be on the side of the reds. Also alleged by the leader of the yellows is that many of those in police uniforms are Cambodian gangsters brought in by the reds.
There are a few army medical tents, but the army is rumored to be on the side of the yellows.
The shut-down streets near my house seem normal now and I usually get my dinner from the many food carts on the edges of the protest. The new food selections are amazing. My biggest fear is being caught in a stampede after a bomb or shooting, so I stay in exit-able, fringe areas. I knew I was getting blasé about this situation when the other day I needed some socks and my first thought was that the protests would have some good-quality, cheap pairs. (I was right.)
I will not write tomorrow as I am not leaving the house.
- Notice the tent set up on the sky train platform.
I hope it will not be violent, but it is hard to see how it could not be. There are hundreds of thousands who are furious with each other and no real options for compromise. That being said, Thailand always surprises me with solutions that just could never happen in other countries.
The mood seemed far more tense tonight at my local protest area, but not violent.
One area that has been impacted in a major way is the sex-tourism street of Soi Cowboy. The Vegas-style, neon, seizure-inducing carnival of lights have been replaced by tumbleweeds and crickets. I am guessing the lights are out for the first time in 40 years.