A large anti-government protest is scheduled to take place this coming weekend (November 28) in Bangkok. The protest in the Thai capital is being organized by the red shirts who have announced the intention is to force the current government out of office. Meanwhile, in Chiang Mai, anti-government protesters have said they will turn out in force to voice their disapproval for prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who is due to meet business leaders in the northern city. Speaking on a community radio station, a red shirt supporter from the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group said that Abhisit would be killed if he visited Chiang Mai. Although it was later claimed that the radio broadcaster’s comments were ‘a joke’, it has stoked up tension ahead of the prime minister’s proposed visit. There has been talk today that the prime minister’s visit to Chiang Mai could be postponed, partly because of fears for Abhisit’s safety and partly because the Thai leader may decide to stay in Bangkok to handle any potential problems that could arise during the protests in the capital.
The Timing of the Protests
The timing of the Bangkok protest has raised a few eyebrows. Even some red shirt activists have publicly expressed their misgivings as Thailand prepares to celebrate the 82nd birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on December 5. The rally in Bangkok will affect the Democracy Monument area along with access roads close to the Grand Palace and Government House. The red shirt leaders have said the protest will be peaceful and will be finished before December 2 to allow all the preparations for the king’s birthday to go ahead unhindered. However, red shirt leaders have also said that if the government is not toppled before December 2, the protests will resume on a date yet to be confirmed once all of the events for the king’s birthday have concluded. Celebratory events for the royal birthday are scheduled from December 3-8.
The Role of Thaksin Shinawatra
The timing of the protest may have much to do with Thaksin Shinawatra. It would be too simplistic to say that all red shirt activists support Thaksin and totally agree with everything he has done. However, the majority of the core leaders of the red shirt movement are thought to be taking their cue from Thaksin. Local commentators are pointing to the timing of the Bangkok protest as significant because it coincides with the anticipated verdict on a long-running court case. The case involves assets worth billions of Baht in Thaksin’s name which were frozen by the court as criminal investigations were made into the business dealings of Thaksin and his family. The whole affair is complicated, but the outcome could play a major part in determining what Thaksin decides for his next course of action.