BANGKOK — Blood was spilled on Tuesday, the third day of mass demonstrations in Bangkok, but not in the way that many had feared.
The Lede Blog: Video of Thai Blood-Spilling Protest (March 16, 2010)
Times Topic: Thailand
Antigovernment protesters pooled their blood — drawn by medical workers in air-conditioned tents — to unleash a red tide at the gates of Government House, the office of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and later at his party’s headquarters.
“We will curse them with our blood and our soul!” yelled a protest leader, Nattawut Saikua, to roaring approval from a crowd of several thousand people at Government House, including farmers, monks and vegetable sellers.
Their so-called Red Shirt protest movement remains resentful over the 2006 military coup that ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who championed rural and poorer voters. The movement accuses the current government of favoring the country’s wealthy elite, and has been angered by a series of court decisions in recent years banning political parties allied with Mr. Thaksin.
They want the government to call elections, and with the backing of vast rice-growing areas in the north and northeast of the country, they would have a good shot at winning. Mr. Abhisit, who has nearly two years left in his term, has repeatedly said he will not dissolve Parliament because he does not think it will resolve the political crisis set off by Mr. Thaksin’s ouster.
The Red Shirts continued to occupy the streets of the main government district in Bangkok on Tuesday, though their numbers appear to be down from the more than 100,000 people who crowded the streets on Sunday.
Parliament postponed a scheduled sitting after the majority of the members, including the prime minister, did not show up. Some banks in the neighborhood closed their doors, but most other areas of Bangkok were unaffected by the protests.
The protesters held up the containers of blood like offerings to an angry god before pouring them out. Clumps of coagulated blood clung to the pavement. A Brahmin walked barefoot through the foamy red pools and performed a ceremony. A soldier in full riot gear fainted.
Critics derided the action as a repellent publicity stunt; a government spokesman called it a “photo op.” But the protesters said they were desperate to show their anger at a government that they consider illegitimate.
“To make a monk bleed is one of the worst sins,” said Phol Chanthasaro, a monk in orange robes who stood at the gates of Government House. “I want the government to understand right and wrong.”
Security forces allowed a group of Red Shirts to pass through cordons of soldiers and pour the blood at the entrance to Government House. As the crowd outside the gates shouted “Get Out!” an officer in military uniform, made an announcement on a loudspeaker. “Thank you,” the officer said to the crowd. “We applaud you.”
Once the crowd had dispersed and the hundreds of soldiers guarding the prime minister’s office were allowed a break, a cleanup crew in white suits and rubber gloves arrived. They scrubbed the bloody pavement clean.
Street protests have often been dramatic during the past four years of political deadlock here.
In November 2008, when a pro-Thaksin government was in power, anti-Thaksin protesters, known here as the Yellow Shirts, closed Bangkok’s two international airports, stranding hundreds of thousands of travelers. They camped out on the lawn of the prime minister’s residence for several months, blocking access to government officials.
In April last year, the Red Shirts threatened to blow up trucks carrying flammable gas during riots in Bangkok and pummeled the car carrying the prime minister, who narrowly escaped. They raided a hotel where leaders from around the region were gathering, sending the prime ministers of China, Japan and many other nations scrambling to leave the country.
Nice Pojanamesbaanstit contributed reporting.
spotted by RS