Thai anti-gov't protesters in support of martial law

By Arnaud Dubus, Wednesday, May 21, 2014

'Yellow shirt' protesters remain encamped in Bangkok, determined to march through the capital's streets Monday for 'victory day'.

'Yellow shirt' protesters remain encamped in Bangkok, determined to march through the capital's streets Monday for 'victory day'.

BANGKOK - Following Tuesday's declaration of martial law, Thai anti-government demonstrators remained Wednesday at a protest camp in Bangkok’s old quarter, fully in support of the military’s move.

“Martial law is a good thing. It protects the citizens,” Kai Chindahin, a civil servant from northern Phrae province, told the Anadolu Agency.

“We can come to demonstrate without having to worry about security questions. We can even bring our children.” 

While most Thais remained confused, some of them furious about the army's early-morning announcement Tuesday, People Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) supporters continued to camp out on a large avenue near Government House - the deserted siege of government power - where they were protected from the harsh sun by huge canvasses.

Many of the protesters - clad in the movement's symbolic yellow shirts - lay on plastic sheets, staring at their leaders as they spoke on giant screens across the street, music intermittently blasting from speakers.

With the army's shuttering of satellite channels run by pro and anti-government groups – including the PDRC’s “Blue Sky” – the camp has lost some of its ambience and enthusiasm, but protesters remained positive Wednesday. 

“The military is not creating problems for us, they don’t disturb us,” Wanka Boonprasert, an employee from southern Nakhon Sri Thammarat, told AA.

“If the military had not intervened in such a volatile political situation, good people like us would have to be very careful. We could be attacked at any moment.”

Since the beginning of the seven-month political crisis, over 28 people have been killed and around 700 wounded in attacks on protesters both for and against the government. Problems started in November last year when former Premier Yingluck Shinawatra tried to introduce a 2013 amnesty which would have lifted a 2008 corruption conviction against her brother Thaksin - a divisive figure who is currently living in exile, mostly in Dubai.

Thailand's Constitutional Court dismissed Yingluck from her position along with nine of her ministers May 7 for abuse of power. 

PDRC protestors say that despite the implementation of martial law, they intend to continue with a planned march next Monday through Bangkok, PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban – a former opposition MP – saying Tuesday it would be “victory day.”

The PDRC has been demanding the entire government's dismissal and the setting up of an unelected "people’s council" to implement reforms to limit the role of elected politicians.

Kai Chindahin, also from Thailand’s north, told AA “We still want reform before elections. And we are ready to continue the protest until we achieve it.”

Stakeholders in the conflict held a two-hour closed-door meeting at the army club Wednesday. Afterwards, a military spokesman said all parties had been asked to return for a second meeting Thursday with an offer of compromise acceptable to their side.

Yellow Shirt protesters, however, say they have no faith in the opposition camp.

“We just cannot trust the 'Red Shirt' leaders. They are insincere,” Natthapat Sriwichai, a housewife from central Suphanburi province, told AA. 

“They are not acting for the good of the nation but on behalf of only one person,” she added, referring to Thaksin - who most opposition figures claim to be manipulating the government and "Red Shirt" movement from overseas.

“Solidarity between Thais has been broken by politicians, who use the people as their instrument. They manipulate them with their money,” Sriwichai said.

Meanwhile Wednesday, "Red Shirts" continued to occupy a large avenue in a Bangkok suburb. 

They agree to political dialogue, but remain adamant that the current government must stay until new elections take place - which they want held as soon as possible.

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