Protesters say they want Yingluck to step down amid claims that her government is controlled by her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006. On Sunday, more than 150,000 demonstrators [BP: Upping the protest numbers from early evening report yesterday & basically in line with BP’s estimate of 150-175k] took to Bangkok’s streets in the largest rally Thailand has seen in years, uniting against what they call the “Thaksin regime.”
The incursions into the finance and foreign ministries were the boldest acts yet in opposition-led protests that started last month. They highlighted the movement’s new strategy of paralyzing the government by forcing civil servants to stop working.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban led the crowd at the Finance Ministry on a day when protesters fanned out to 13 locations across Bangkok, snarling traffic and raising concerns of violence in the country’s ongoing political crisis, which has revolved around Thaksin for years.
“Go up to every floor, go into every room, but do not destroy anything,” Suthep told the crowd before he entered the ministry and held a meeting in its conference room.
“Make them see this is people’s power!” said Suthep, a former deputy prime minister and opposition lawmaker.
Protesters sang, danced and blew noisy whistles in the hallways as part of their “whistle-blowing” campaign against the government. One group cut power at the Budget Bureau to pressure the agency to stop funding government projects.
Police made no immediate move to oust them.
The protesters in the evening burst onto the Foreign Ministry grounds, which was not on their original list of targets.
“The protesters are on the ministry’s compound but they promised they will not enter the buildings,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said by phone. “We are now asking them to provide ways for the officials who were still working to leave the offices and they will likely have to work from home tomorrow.” He did not know how many protesters there were, though Thai media said there were several hundred.
About 1,000 anti-government demonstrators forced their way into Thailand’s Finance Ministry on Monday and protest leaders called for the occupation of other government buildings in an escalating bid to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The swiftly rising political tension came as more than 30,000 demonstrators marched to 13 areas across the city, raising the risk of a clash with police, a day after about 100,000 gathered in the city’s historic quarter.
BP: Significantly less than Sunday although that was expected, but how many of the protesters on Sunday who consisted of many people who are not necessarily strong supporters of the Democrats, but are more upset with the government will go the rallies now?
New York Times on how Suthep – who led the protesters to take over the Finance Ministry – staged the takeover:
Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister who is one of the leaders of the protest, led the takeover of the Finance Ministry on Monday, shouting instructions to protesters from atop a large truck.
“Everyone get in the building!” Mr. Suthep said as his supporters blew ear-piercing whistles. The protesters eventually turned off the ministry’s electricity after he urged them to do so, “so that the police will not receive their daily allowance.”
“From now on, this government can no longer transfer money,” he said. “Not a single coin will be used by the Thaksin regime anymore.”
Independent analysts have criticized what they say appears to be an open-ended protest. “The protest leaders need to clarify their demands,” Yuttaporn Issarachai, the dean of political science at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, said Monday on Thai television.
BP: Suthep is not satisfied with dissolution of parliament or resignation of Yingluck, but the specifics of eradicating Thaksinocracy is unclear. Ok, getting rid of immediate family members is almost certain, but what about Pongthep, Surapong, Chaturon, Noppadol Pattama, or a number of other politicians that have been with Thaksin since the beginning? How far does the net spread? Then can anyone remaining even speak to Thaksin?
“The protesters still lack the backing of forces with the willingness and ability to topple the government quickly,” said Michael Montesano, visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “If disorder spreads, we will see how long those forces are willing to stand aside.”
A Thai banker told Asia Sentinel the opposition, led by the Democrat Party, intends to push the government to eventually foment violence.
“Eventually, the police have to get them out,” the banker said. “That will result in violence. And when that happens, people always blame the police. The original idea was to throw out the amnesty bill. The number of people who came out to protest was larger than they thought.
“The underlying problems will remain unsolved,” said a western banker. “Will Thailand ever mature? Thaksin really screwed up this time, so the government probably deserves to fall. The problem is that the ‘million’ on the streets probably really believe the opposition rhetoric that Thailand’s problems would go away if they could just get rid of Thaksin. The truth is that the other side is equally corrupt, and is devoid of any ideas about how what reforms they would implement, or how they would get the nation on track. They accomplished close to nothing in the three years that Abhisit was in office, other than start a totally unnecessary conflict with Cambodia. So we await a white knight to rescue us.”
Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, said the outlook for the government is highly uncertain. “It’s going to be a tumultuous week, very precarious. Something will have to give. The government now has to respond,” said Pongsudhirak. “The protestors are demanding the entire overhaul, uprooting of everything associated with Thaksin Shinawatra, which is an open ended, very difficult demand to meet.”
Panitan Wattanayagorn, a former government spokesman and political scientist, said the government is now seen to be ‘struggling’ in the face of the rising political tensions. “The government is struggling to find an appropriate response. If this situation continues too long the legitimacy of the government could be destroyed because never before do you have people who are coming out on the streets like this and demanding the system to be more responsive to the needs of the people,” he stated.
Thamrongsak Petchlertanan, political science lecturer at Rangsit University, said the government’s options are limited, with choices of calling a fresh election to ease the tensions or dispersing the protests at a risk of instigating violence.
“The government’s stability is barely there now,” Mr. Thamrongsak said. “The current circumstances are forcing the government to seek its righteousness through general elections.”
Mr. Thamrongsak, the political scientist, predicts the anti-Thaksin sentiment will continue. “There may have been peace in Thailand during the past few years, but many people have never really accepted the Shinawatras as their leaders,” he said.
“By occupying the finance ministry, the whole dynamic has changed,” Pitch Pongsawat, a professor of political science at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, told the Telegraph. “Everyone is pushing the situation to the maximum.”
1. So we have the seizure of the Finance Ministry, but also the compound of the Foreign Ministry with talk of occupying all ministries and that the situation will be over within 2 days. What ministries will be next? Commerce? Government House? Then parliament?
2. Around 9:30 p.m. last night, Yingluck went on TV stating that the actions by the protesters and damage they caused during their seizure of ministries means that civil servants are unable to work which threatens the security of the government. She announced an expansion of the Internal Security Act. The Nation:
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra last night extended the invocation of special internal security law to cover entire Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan’s Bang Phli district [BP: Including Suvarnmbhumi airport] and Pathum Thani’s Ladlumkaew district.
Since October 18, the Internal Security Act (ISA) covered only three Bangkok districts; Phra Nakhon, Dusit and Pomprap Sattrupai. The law that prohibits mass gathering would directly affect rally sites on Rajdamnoen Avenue and others.
The protesters also cut off electricity and water supplies in those buildings, the moves that would affect officials and people in general. The premier called for people not to provide cooperation with the protesters who broke the laws and to cooperate with government officers so that the situation returns to normal.
BP: Heard late last night on Channel 3 that the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), set up to deal with the protests, will first talk with the protesters for them to return the seized building/compounds, but then what? What process will they have in place? At what point will they up the measures to block off the venue from outside so no resources get in and then use the LRAD and even tear gas? What about stopping protesters at other venues? It will be interesting to see what plans the authorities have, but last year they were able to stop the Pitak Siam rallies although protest numbers are higher now.
3. Today, we have the no confidence debate against the government which will run for two days of debate before the vote on Thursday (parliamentary session will end on Friday). Suthep states that the protesters do not accept legitimacy of the government, but Abhisit and the others will seemingly attend parliament (tacitly accepting legitimacy of the government ?) to censure a few Ministers and the PM in the hope to weaken the government. Will politics remain in parliament? Or will the Democrats adopt a dual strategy of attacking the government inside the House will seizing building outside the House? Will the protests go to Government House?
So much is up in the air. The protesters could really up the ante and there is no guidance on what that really means..
btw, separate posts about Nick Nostitz, judicial coup/independent agency coup option to come…