BANGKOK, Thailand – An escalation of violence and tension has taken hold of the anti-government protests in Bangkok. The public demonstration experienced a serious turn of events when an explosive device was hurled at protesters and opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban as they marched down the street on January 17.
Two blasts went off, marking the first daytime violent attack on protesters in a public place. The attack injured 28 people who were rushed to the hospital. Those attacked were protesting for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign.
The wounds suffered by the injured from the blast appeared to be nonfatal.
An estimated 12,000 protesters were in attendance the Friday the explosion went off. Many more protesters came out the Monday before with a recorded 17,000 people, according to the Thai government. Protesters estimate much higher attendance than what is officially estimated.
Violence was sweeping the capital throughout the week leading up to the explosion. Two protesters were shot, buses were set on fire, police officers were assaulted and an opposition leader’s house was bombed.
The explosion did not deter protesters. Protesters headed towards Lumpini Park as planned to have a rally. Around 20,000 security personnel have been posted by the government all over Bangkok to keep the protests under control.
Action has not yet been taken by the security forces and their presence has been veiled. The Thai government does not want a confrontation. Thai authorities and anti-government protesters were cautioned by the United Nations, the United States and rights groups to have peaceful demonstrations and respect human rights.
The anti-government protests have not been without casualties since its November 2013 beginning. Authorities revealed that eight people lost their lives and 450 have been injured thus far. It is important that Thailand does not have a repeat of the civil unrest in 2010 that killed 90 people.
Parliament was dissolved by Yingluck in December and new elections were set for February 2 in an attempt to end the unrest. Protesters were unsatisfied and little has changed.
The tension in Thailand is the product of a class war that pits the middle class and royalists against the impoverished, rural supporters of the Shinawatra family. It is a conflict eight years in the making. The reemergence of political unrest began in November of last year.
Thaksin Shinawatra is Yingluck’s billionaire brother and the former prime minister of Thailand. He and his allies have enjoyed political success due to strong rural and working-class support.
The support from the rural and working class community has allowed Thaksin and his allies to be victorious in all the elections since 2001. Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party will likely win the upcoming election.
Thaksin governed Thailand with populist policies that supported the rural heartland. He was forcefully removed from office in 2006 by a military coup and now lives in exile overseas. Thaksin will be met with a two-year prison sentence for corruption if he comes back to Thailand.
Anti-government protesters blame Thaksin for the instability of an already fragile democracy. They charge that Thaksin committed nepotism and corruption as well.
The main objective is to bring an end to the political influence firmly held by the Shinawatra family. Anti-government protesters plan to accomplish this by changing the electoral process and passing political reforms. They also want an unelected people’s council to oversee electoral and political processes.
The conflict in Thailand has had adverse effects on the economy. Annual growth was projected by Finance Minister Kittirat Na Ranong to be only three percent. The original estimation was 4.5 percent growth, but manufacturing, exports, consumption and tourism are hindered by the unrest.
– Brittany Mannings