No sooner had I put up that last post when the news breaks that the PPP demonstrators have created a massive traffic jam by blocking off all entrances to one of the main rotaries in the city with some taxis. Whoa! I think it's the rotary around the Victory Monument but I have a tough time telling which rotary is which. It messed with travel so badly that the phone was ringing off the hook with people saying they'd be late to class or that they were just gonna stay home. Then they even canceled my last class for the day! Again, don't worry about me. The protests are very peaceful (one truck/protest-float even has a big banner that says 'Non-violence'(in english))The parents calling in weren't scared of the protests, I'm sure they just didn't want to deal with the hassle of getting here. So I guess the protests have finally impacted my life. There's even talk of canceling school tomorrow(i doubt it) which would be really neat. I'd get to start my Songkran break a day early! If that happens, I'll take the skytrain over to Victory Monument and snap some sweet pictures. The fact that 'non-violence' was written in English makes me wonder if this is making any major news in the Western World or really anywhere outside Thailand. Is it?
EDIT: here's someone's running diary on Thursday's events I found in the Bangkok Post online.
"11:55 The weather is quite hot at the rally sites and, as usual, the number of protestors has dwindled considerably. They will return, however, a bit later in the day. Expect a big crowd for when the 24-hour ultimatum expires. The prime minister has firmly rejected the UDD demands and says he does not expect the protestors to surround his house.
12:30 The latest UDD plan appears to be to send groups of protestors to the Supreme Court, the Foreign Ministry and the Democrat Party headquarters. There are also threats to disrupt the Asean meeting in Pattaya tomorrow, but that might not be a good idea if the protesters want the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra back in power.
14:00 The UDD have started their march on the Democract party headquarters, but more importantly to the people of Bangkok, taxi drivers have blocked off roads around Victory monument. The taxi association is threatening to block all Bangkok roads if the ultimatum is not met. That is not going to make them popular among Bangkok residents.
15:50 Only about 10 minutes to go before the UDD's deadline. There have been reports that the protestors would enter Government House if their demands weren't met, but core leader Nattawud Saikua denied that a few minutes ago.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is in Pattaya where the Asean summit is scheduled to begin tomorrow. He remains adament that it will take place and that he will not dissolve the House.
Meanwhile, the traffic jams continue.
16:25 Although it was taxi drivers who closed off Victory monument, it is the UDD that has taken it over. Several large mobile stages have been moved in. There is a big hospital there, so they better be careful. At the moment, ambulances can't get through.
19:15 The prime minister is scheduled to address the country shortly, the first time we have heard much from him today. He is supposed to do this at channel 11, but there are reports red-shirts are on there way there to stop him. We'll see. Meanwhile, traffic has come to a stop in much of the city. I was lucky because I could go much of the way by underground and the skytrain. I got off at Ekamai and walked the remaining two kilometres to my home. The traffic was moving but I could walk faster. The last time I looked outside, traffic travelling away from Sukhumvit toward Petchaburi, Rama 9 and Lard Praw was at a complete standstill. The main reason of course lies with taxi blockades by pro-Thaksin drivers in key locations in the city, particularly the Victory monument area. The UDD quickly took advantage and the have completely taken over the Victory monument and its surroundings. This is a risky strategy and it is still not clear how it will work out in the long run. It won't win many supporters in Bangkok, that is for sure.
22:00 Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva spoke a short time ago. He was his usual calm, confident self and he explained in detail why it was not appropriate or useful to give in the UDD demands. I'll have more on what he said in the morning, but there were a couple of points mentioning now. First, he said that 70 percent of the 100,000 plus protestors that showed up yesterday had gone home. That was a big reason why the protestor leaders change tactics today and become more aggressive. The needed to provoke a violent response from the government to gain support. They didn't get it and, thankfully, things are still calm. The PM said they will separate out the genuine protestors from the trouble-makers. Those creating problems for the public will face legal action. (UDD groups are still closing roads, incidentally. The latest blockage is at the entrance to Rama 4 at Sukhumvit 71. That's not far from where I live.)
The PM ended by saying that he and his government would never benefit personally from the actions they take – a clear reference to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Meanwhile, the UDD is preparing to send a big group to Pattaya to try to disrupt the Asean summit which begins tomorrow. That could create a difficult situation for the government that wants to avoid violence at all costs."
So that about sums up where we are right now. Obviously the UDD is the group I've falsely been referring to as the PPP. The Bangkok Post online is a good way to stay abreast of the situation and I'll keep you updated on any new developments that the papers may miss. Good night!