On Thursday, May 19, a crowd of about 20,000 red-shirt members of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) invaded the Ratchaprasong intersection of Bangkok to mark the 1-year anniversary of the end of their three-month occupation of the same intersection in 2010.
Prior to the commemoration event, Thai media had reported that the Thai Royal Police, the area merchants and the UDD leadership had agreed not to block traffic or cause merchants distress and to remain peaceful. Of these three items, only the peaceful nature of the gathering occurred.
The first thing the UDD did was to set up a stage at the intersection, which of course blocked traffic in Bangkok, a city with more than enough traffic problems already. The five companies of Thai police apparently stood idly by as observers.
The economic fallout of the red-shirt event started with the cancellation of about 1,500 room reservations and meetings for 3,000 guests at the many 5-star international hotels in the Ratchaprasong district.
On Friday, the Ratchaprasong Square Traders Association (RSTA) and members of democracy Without Infringement announced plans to sue the government and the UDD for total business losses estimated at 10 billion baht (US$329.5 million) since the red shirts seized area in April 2010.
Chai Srivikorn, the president of the RSTA, said, “ They broke all the agreements. We're in trouble again and again,If the government can't handle this issue and lets demonstrations happen everywhere, it should not manage the country anymore. We pay tax but the protests infringe on our rights and cost us money."
Napatsakorn Limsuwongkasam, a cloth shop owner in the Pratunam area, borrowed around 500,000 baht to keep her shop afloat after the May 19, 2010, riots. She said, "My shop has been affected by repeated red shirt protests since last April. Whenever there is a protest, local and foreign customers disappear. Red shirts can move their rallies elsewhere but we can't do that with our shops because we have been here for more than 10 years. The rallies should not affect other people, but they end up costing us money."
This is not the first time that Thai police have defaulted on their duties to protect the public interest. With the Thai general election campaign under way and the election set for July 3, the failure of the Thai police in this instance is an ominous sign.
Top News from Southeast Asia
May 22 , 2011
These were the most important stories published by Asean Affairs during the week of May 14-20.