On Friday afternoon, a grenade bomb was dropped from an abandoned building in Bangkok, Thailand, onto a crowd of marching protestors. According to The Guardian, over thirty people were injured in the explosion. We were at the demonstration Friday, talking with protestors about what was happening.
Protestor Saowalux Poshyamandama explained how the conflict all started with a woman named Yingluck Shinawatra. According to this protestor, Prime Minister Shinawatra, as well as other associated government officials, have used money to gain power and instill corruption. While these politicians claim to be doing good for the people, the protestors believe that their leaders are only further lining their own pockets.
They believe that Shinawatra and her party are using money and clout to bully other parties right out of their offices. What's worse is that government officials like Shinawatra have been outright convicted of crime, yet remains in positions of power in the nation.
According to another protestor, who wishes to only be known as "Kong", the protests are a direct response to the recently passed Amnesty Law, which allows government officials immunity from criminal penalties. This means that when Thai government officials violate the law, their convictions can be nullified simply because they are government officials.
As a result of the Amnesty Law, Shinawatra has been refunded the money she was fined for not paying taxes. Furthermore, she refuses to resign as Thailand's Prime Minister. Protestors believe that elections are fixed, and call for a legal and truthful democracy.
"I want to reform first," said one protestor by the name Sam, "Before [the] election. If [they do] not reform, they buy [the] votes." Protestors are calling for stricter policies in parliament and government official accountability. They call for a government shut down and restart – they call for an entire Thai revolution.
"We want respect in elections and a real democracy," remarks another protestor who listens intently to public speakers from Bangkok's Lumpini Park.
According to Kong and his associate, there is a campaign in Thailand to spread a belief that in order for government to function effectively, it is necessary to have a reasonable amount of corruption. Yet, instead, the highly promoted idea that government corruption is the key to social order is partly the cause for social unrest.
The impact of this outrage is visibly phenomenal as thousands of protestors gather around Thailand's MBK shopping complex and Lumpini Park. The sheer numbers have effectively shut down the heart of Bangkok, the highly commercialized Silom district, crippling both local commerce and transportation. English teacher Carly Forsaith explained how school was canceled as a result of the incredible crowds who have gathered to support a revolution in Thailand.
Yet, protestors remain peaceful. They wear "Shutdown Bangkok" t-shirts and wrap bands that read "nonviolent" across their foreheads. They lay out sheets to sit upon as they share noodles and curry. They listen to passionate speeches by revolutionary leader Suthep Thaugsuban and sing along to music as they wave giant Thai flags.
"This movement is different than the red shirts of 2010," remarks Kong, "Because we are unarmed and refuse to use violence. As you can see, our protests are more like a festival."
This remains true even after Friday's bomb explosion. According to various protestors, the grenade attack was a direct hit from the government to suppress the people's right to speak out. Several protestors claim to have seen men in "SWAT" hats surrounding the abandoned building where the grenade was dropped from, as well as SWAT team catering and other equipment.
Report by Kat Vallera
Images and video by Scott O'Brien
Hodal, Kate. "Bangkok Anti-government Protesters Wounded in Grenade Attack." Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 18 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 Jan. 2014.
Murdoch, Lindsay. "Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra Refuses to Resign as Protesters Plan Arrest." The Sydney Morning Herald. World, 15 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 Jan. 2014.