The worst protests Bangkok has seen in years

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Redshirts (left) clash with police in Thailand

Redshirts (left) clash with police in Thailand

Many feel clashes between protesters is inevitable

Article: Dietrich Neu – Foreign Correspondent

[dropcaps round=”no”]A[/dropcaps]nti-government rallies throughout Thailand are picking up some major steam, and are starting to raise eyebrows across the country.

The protests, which started out as an outcry against a controversial Amnesty bill, have now morphed into a call for the government to step down. On Monday, upwards of 20,000 anti-government protesters (some reports have it as high as 100,000), labeled “yellow-shirts”, lined the streets surrounding Bangkok’s democracy monument.

In addition, thousands of yellow-shirt protesters stormed Thailand’s Finance Ministry Monday. The protesters filled almost every floor of the building, blocking officials from going to work. Opposition leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, cheered his fellow supporters during the forced entry, urging them to show the government the “people’s power.”

The protesters also marched in large numbers around several military complexes, police stations, and publicly owned television networks.

Many government employees will be working from home Tuesday, said a government spokeswoman.

Prime Minister Yingluck invoked an emergency security law Monday after the civilian seizure of the Finance Ministry. The Act allows Thai police to impose curfews, block roads, and detain citizens without trial if necessary. The measure will take effect across Bangkok, and would give police the authority to disperse large crowds of protesters if deemed appropriate.

Meanwhile, in Bangkok’s Rajamangala National Stadium, 40,000 red-shirt protesters rallied in support of the government, but did so in a much more measured fashion. But tensions among red-shirt supporters have increased as the anti-government protests become more aggressive.

Politicians and journalists alike are warning that if the unrest doesn’t slow soon, anti-government and pro-government protesters could soon clash in the streets and force a military intervention – bringing back painful memories of the bloody crackdowns two years ago that left over 100 dead. Thailand’s military has maintained they will stay out of the conflict.

Shinawatra called for a diplomatic solution to the conflict during a speech Monday, and said she was confident the situation would be settled by negotiations and the rule of law. But, the Prime Minister’s words appear to be falling on deaf ears as she faces increasing hostility from protesters, and speculations of her resignation make daily appearances in the news.

Several analysts are also speculating that the government might dissolve, forcing a new election.
Yellow-shirt supporters have made it publicly clear that a new election would not be satisfactory, and opposition leader Thaugsuban has even called for reinstatement of an absolute monarchy – something that was abolished over 25 years ago.

Shinawatra and Thaugsuban appear to be in a stand off. Shinawatra, who will have faced a no-confidence debate on Tuesday, has denied that she will step down, or dismantle the government. Thaugsuban has insisted that isn’t good enough.

Both the red-shirts and the yellow-shirts have vowed to continue their efforts in the coming days. However, Thaugsuban shocked many observers when he announced Monday that “the battle will end in three days,” leaving many to wonder what is in store.

One thing is for certain: Thailand’s tumultuous political history has a new chapter.

[button style=”e.g. solid, border” size=”e.g. small, medium, big” link=”http://flickr.com/people/17893072@N00″ target=”new window”]Image: Roland Dobbins[/button]

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