BBC iPlayer – Mark Patterson 16-03-2010.htm – Radio report, about 90 mins in.
– TV report on Canadian afternoon news (no url yet).
– See photos from the march at:
BANGKOK—Potent smells, vivid colours and ominous ritualism was again the order of the day in Bangkok as red shirt demonstrators found a way through riot police lines to make a blood curse at the residence of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva.
This comes after yesterday’s “blood sacrifice” at Government House and at the Democrat Party offices, when tens of thousands of red shirts lined up to donate blood at the main rally site at Phan Fa Bridge.
The demonstrators want the Prime Minister to step down and to call fresh elections, which the government has so far refused to do.
By 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning, thousands of Redshirt demonstrators in pickups and on foot thronged Sukhumvit Road near the Asoke intersection in central Bangkok. Their target was Abhisit’s residence, which is on Soi 31, a side street running off Sukhumvit Road lined with condominiums and restaurants.
Thousand of protestors moved across the city from the Phan Fa Bridge area to Sukhumvit Road, passing through some of Bangkok’s busiest shopping areas, before closing in on the street where the PM lives.
The PM’s house can be approached from at least three directions, and several lines of riot police 8-10 men deep backed by police vans and trucks formed cordons at successive points down the 400 meters from the main road to the PM’s compound.
The Redshirts chanted and cheered for about two hours until their leadership showed up with the remaining bottles of blood donated by thousands of their members yesterday. After a stand-off which was followed by negotiations with Pol Maj-Gen Wichai Sangprapai, Redshirt leaders were allowed to get closer. The crowd advanced down Soi 31, pushing the police lines back onto each other.
After fifteen minutes, there was an immense crush right outside the PM’s residence, with journalists, Redshirts and police all jostling for position and straining not to be thrown against the razor-wire fence arrayed around the compound.
Through the crowd came a half-dozen protestors carrying 5-liter water bottles filled with blood. After a few tense minutes amid a sea of police, protestors and news cameramen, the Redshirts emptied the bottles’ contents onto the gate and pillars of the PM’s home before lobbing smaller bottles of blood over the gate into the garden.
Bags of human excrement mixed with fish, which the Red shirts had prepared prior to traveling to Bangkok late last week, were also thrown over the fence.
Immediately the rain-sodden street, already starting to well-up with rainwater, was reddened with the blood running off the walls.
In the middle of a downpour in temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius, the smell of blood permeated the street, reaching bemused residents taking pictures from their balconies overlooking the street.
After the ritual, the crowd dispersed, and within ten minutes a clean-up operation had begun—a two-fold exercise aiming at erasing potential public health dangers posed by human blood on the street and countering the curse placed on the PM’s home by the blood ritual.
Thais mix Buddhism with ancient animist spirituality, with much emphasis on ritual, amulets and good or ill fortune. Yesterday, after the blood was washed away from in front of the Democrat Party headquarters, prayers were said in an attempt to ward off the impact of the curse.
Watching the ritual take place, one long-time observer of Thai politics and culture told The Irrawaddy that much of the media coverage ignores this belief-driven element of the demonstrations.
He said: “Both sides see this as not only a political struggle decided on the streets or in parliament, but something with a supernatural dimension as well. You cannot fully understand what is going on without taking this into account.”
The Redshirts then left for the US Embassy, seeking clarification on the Deputy PM’s comments that, based on apparent tapping of ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra phone conversations, the US and others had given the Thai Government warnings about potential sabotage by demonstrators during what was promised to be a week-long peaceful protest known as the “million-man march.”
A US representative said that any clarification should come from the Thai Government.
A joint sitting of the Thai parliament set for yesterday was postponed, with Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban saying the session cannot take place until the Redshirt demonstrations calm down.
Some MPs fear that the Redshirts could use a house sitting to surround parliament. The Pheu Thai party, which is linked to the Redshirt demonstrators and likewise supported by fugitive former PM Thaksin, is pushing for a no-confidence vote in the current administration.
Abhisit’s Democrat Party-led government is supported by minority parties Bhum Jai Thai and Chart Pattana, which are both made up of former Thaksin supporters.
It is not yet clear what the Redshirts’ next move will be, or how much longer the demonstrations can be sustained.
Thousands of red shirts began traveling to Bangkok last Friday after a series of ritual-laden ceremonies to open the demonstrations both in the capital and in their strongholds in the north and northeast of Thailand.
By Sunday evening more than 100,000 demonstrators had gathered at the Phan Fa Bridge in central Bangkok to watch a video-link speech by Thaksin.
On Monday morning, thousands lined the streets to wave the red shirts on, as they made their way to the 11th Army barracks on Bangkok’s outskirts.
However, by Tuesday morning, amid searing temperatures, the crowd at the main rally site had thinned significantly. Many of the Redshirts appeared to be middle-aged and older, having traveled to Bangkok from their villages in rural Thailand to join the rally.
While the Abhisit’s government seems unlikely to step down at present and the “million-man march” never materialized, the Redshirts have created a unique photo-op with their blood protest, making headlines around the world.
It remains to be seen just what the immediate and longer-term impact of this will be.
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