Al Jazeera Blogs


Asia

Thai protesters settle in for the long haul

Government unlikely to allow rallies to continue indefinitely, but questions remain over what it may do to stop them.
Last modified: 27 Nov 2013 13:41
The protests that started against an amnesty bill turned into anti-government rallies [Reuters]

It is a tactic that has been employed in Thailand before: taking over important buildings in an attempt to oust the government. 

And the anti-government protesters at the finance and interior ministries seem to be settling in for the long haul. 

As with most protests in Thailand, this one has a carnival-like atmosphere, with people selling food and using what I call "protest paraphernalia" - flags, whistles, clappers. 

A stage has been set up, used not just by protest leaders to deliver fiery speeches to rally the crowd, but by singers who occasionally take to the microphone to entertain the sometimes restless protesters. 

There is no indication how much longer the demonstrations will continue, but protest leaders have promised something "big" will happen on Wednesday. They have not given details of what that may entail, but have called on supporters to march to city hall buildings across the country.  

It is hard to tell whether the protests will grow into a nationwide movement. 

What started as opposition to an amnesty bill, which many feared could be used to allow former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return to the country, has morphed into huge anti-government protests. Thaksin Shinawatra lives in self-imposed exile because he faces a two-year sentence for corruption.

But Thaksin Shinawatra is still held in very high regard in rural Thailand, mainly because of populist measures he initiated when he governed the country. That support is in turn extended to his sister, current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and her government.

Still, even if protests were confined to Bangkok, the government is unlikely to allow them to continue indefinitely. It is bad for business and hurts the economy. 

The question that is left, though, is how it may stop them.