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Red shirts at Ratchadamnoen Ave

March 14th, 2010 · No Comments

Despite reports of there being more than 100,000 red shirts in Bangkok already, at about 6pm tonight the numbers were still relatively low around the main convergence point at Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue.

The red shirts had set up tents all along the road, from quite close to the Rattanakosin Hotel, but there were very low numbers, only handfuls really along lead up to Democracy Monument, and the road was pretty much operable as normal.

Numbers were dense at the main gates to the protest site on the Democracy Monument exit near to Pan Fa Bridge where the stage is set up, around 6pm there were probably arounf 10,000 thousand people there.

The overall area that has been occupied is pretty vast, leading from the bridge along Ratchadamnoen to Government House, which for now is pretty much a red-shirt carpark, with about 200 to 300 vehicles, mainly pickups but quite a few buses and trucks.

Numbers were still quite light along the main stretch say about 10-15 people for every metre’s length of road thinning out to about 10 people for every five or so metres, amounting to a few more thousand. It’s hard to say how many people there were overall in the area, possibly more than 20,000 but definitely not the 50,000 which one red shirt said to me.

The overall atmosphere was not at all intimidating, something more like a temple fair. It’s amazing how in Thailand groups can occupy vast swathes of the city’s centre of power and effectively bring a catering division with them, as well as plenty of stalls selling red shirt and pro-Thaksin paraphernalia.

First aid centres, food stalls, “red mob” foot massages (which were 50 baht cheaper than the 200 baht on nearby Khao San Road), public toilets and other facilities were set up around the whole protest site.

The crowd around the stage had swelled but not quite doubled by 8pm when the speeches were well underway. Names of the usual suspects were reeled off – Abhisit, Sondhi Limthongkul, Newin, Suthep – and the “amataya” elite. Chants raised to a crescendo when the speaker started yelling “Abhisit, get out” in English.

Red shirts at Pan Fa Bridge

Red shirts at Pan Fa Bridge

Protesters shouting "Abhisit, get out"

One speaker said that the excrement from the toilet buses would be collected and put in bags for “use” at the main rally today (Sunday 14).

By this time the red shirt guards were in force with police at the main entry gates to the protest site and they appeared to be working well together searching every one entering the site for weapons.

There were definitely more people arriving than leaving at this point and a crowd of onlookers had gathered to see what was going on. One man on a mountain bike said he disagreed with the protest but wanted to see it as it could effect Bangkok’s economy.

There were police and soldiers deployed with riot gear all throughout the area, but there were no signs of tension. In fact, life along Khao San, Rambutri and Phra Arthit roads seemed normal with the backpackers and Western tourists seemingly oblivious to what was going on just a few blocks away.

It was only at the far end of Khao San where you could see a line of troops and hear the red shirts’ sound systems that it became clear there was a major event going on. A number of tourists were taking photos of the rally.

Overall, despite the rabble-rousing rhetoric from the stage, things were peaceful. Hopefully they’ll stay that way.

Tags: Greg's Blog · opinion · politics · red shirts · Thailand · UDD

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