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‘Bangkok Shutdown’ Begins in Thailand

Protesters pose near a train station with the theme 'Occupy Bangkok'. Photo by Camille Gazeau, Copyright @Demotix (1/13/2014)

Protesters pose near a train station with the theme ‘Occupy Bangkok'. Photo by Camille Gazeau, Copyright @Demotix (1/13/2014)

Tens of thousands filled the major intersections of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, as opposition groups intensified their bid to topple the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The protest led by former lawmaker Suthep Thaugsuban aims to ‘shutdown’ Bangkok for several days or until Yingluck is removed from power.

Yingluck is accused of being a puppet of her elder brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was ousted by a coup in 2006 but his party has remained victorious in the polls. He is in exile after being found guilty of plunder by a local court.

Protesters were able to occupy several government buildings last November and December aside from mobilizing thousands in the streets of Bangkok. To defuse tension, Yingluck dissolved the parliament to make way for an election next month. But the opposition said they will boycott the polls and instead they wanted to set-up an unelected People’s Council.

Despite the planned shutdown, Bangkok was not entirely paralyzed. Matt reported what he saw on the ground:

At the Bangkok Shutdown thousands of people have occupied various busy parts of Bangkok, complete with tents and sleeping mats. It's not really a shutdown, though. Bangkok more or less functioned as normal Monday with the exception of a number of mall closures. About 140 schools also had to close and many people worked from home. The streets in central Bangkok quiet and there were fewer cars on the road, which if anything was a good thing. How many people were out there is difficult to gauge.

Asian Cinema enjoyed the ‘festive atmosphere’ of the protest:

Thousands upon thousands of people, but at least so far it is a very festive atmosphere. A giant street party where people are singing, blowing whistles, clapping, eating, sleeping, smiling, holding up signs and just basically having fun. This could go on for weeks or perhaps only days so it will be interesting to see how long the good mood lasts.

The Twitter hashtag #BKKShutdown is useful to monitor the situation in the country. Bangkok's major streets were occupied with protesters as shown in this photo

A ‘half-road shutdown’

Even those on wheelchair joined the protest:

Many young people were also supportive of the protest:

Whistle was used by protesters as symbol of their fight against corruption:

On Day 2 of the shutdown campaign, expect more flag waving and whistle blowing in the streets.

Interestingly, numerous ‘survival’ apps were developed to help Bangkok residents cope with the protest.

But the demand of the protesters to cancel the February election was criticized as ‘undemocratic.’ They were told to respect the choice of the voters instead of pushing for the creation of a so-called ‘People's Council’

Despite the varying opinion on the protest, many agree that it solved Bangkok's notorious traffic problem:

Meanwhile, in the north part of the country where Prime Minister Yingluck continues to enjoy popular support, thousands joined a candle lighting event

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