Bangkok boating park becomes focus of Thai protests

BANGKOK — A green oasis in downtown Bangkok slowly began to resemble a tent city Saturday after anti-government protesters said they would clear camps blocking key intersections and congregate in the park instead.

The protesters were blocking some streets since mid-January in a bid to push out Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and eradicate the influence of her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, seen as the real power in the country.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban’s supporters moved to Lumpini Park, where many protesters already sleep in tents near an established protest stage on the edge of the Silom financial district.

The tents are slowly filling up the park, most under the shade of trees or awnings and next to boating lakes, with washing lines strung between branches.

Suthep, to supporters:

“We will stop closing Bangkok and give every intersection back to Bangkokians. We will stop closing Bangkok from Monday. But we will escalate our shutdown of government ministries and Shinawatra businesses.”

Protesters planned a big cleaning-up day Sunday before opening roads on Monday, but at least two affiliated groups plan to stay at their protest sites, including one led by controversial Buddhist monk Luang Pu Buddha Issara.

Issara:

“I was angry with Suthep’s announcement. We have lost blood and lives and for what? To end it all now?”

Protest numbers have dwindled amid attacks on various camps with grenades and guns. Three people were killed when a grenade was thrown into a busy shopping area near one camp on Sunday.

In total, 20 people have been killed in protest-related violence in Bangkok since November 20 and three in the eastern province of Trat.

The threat of violence has taken a toll on tourism in the capital, even though most areas have been unaffected, including the old part of town by the river and the Khao San Road backpacker district, which is frequented by western tourists.

A restaurant worker, on Friday:

“Business is good here. As good as ever. There are no hippies here.”

Source: Reuters

 

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