Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Black Songkran in Bangkok
During Songkran, the Thai New Year, Thailand's biggest holiday, people ordinarily take to the streets and have good-natured water fights.
This year, bullets and Molotov cocktails are flying as Thailand's political cycle takes its most vicious turn yet with the army trying to force the red-shirt protesters from the streets.
Last November, it was people in yellow shirts who shut down the airports and succeeded in ousting a government they were unhappy with. Now it's people in red shirts, disrupting a regional summit meeting and blockading major intersections in Bankgok. They're unhappy with the government put in power by the yellows.
Both sides have been hollering for democracy, but neither outcome has been truly democratic. Power is taken by big-money politics, by the threat of tanks or by mass movements in the streets.
I won't attempt to cover this state of emergency in any depth here. Rather, I'm going to take a break for at least a couple days -- it just doesn't seem right to continue writing about movies as if nothing else matters.
For the news, I've been following the usual suspects: The Nation, the Bangkok Post, Bangkok Pundit. Add to that the power of Twitter, where #redshirt is a trending topic covered by many, including Thai101, Matthew_Hunt, Newley, CodyMcKibb, Bact and ThailandToday. Apologies to anyone I've left off.
Update: By Tuesday afternoon, the red-shirt leaders were arrested or had surrendered to police, and told their supporters to go home. Seems the battles with the army and skirmishes with enraged local residents took the fight out of the red shirts. Two people are dead as a result of the fighting. Meanwhile, the Songkran holiday has been extended two more days to continue until Friday. What will happen next? What will the red shirts and their figurehead, the fugitive former prime minister Thaksin do? Can the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva mount a successful national reconcilation?