Riding the Skytrain through central Bangkok yesterday, I had a strange feeling that something was horribly amiss. After checking I was wearing all necessary clothes I cast my gaze further afield and realised what it was. People on their way to work were wearing conservative blacks, whites and greys. In most capitals, this would not raise any eyebrows — but in Bangkok, on a Monday, it has larger implications.

Yellow is a lucky colour in Thailand, and symbolises the Thai monarch. Monday is the King’s day, and as such public transport and Bangkok streets are usually awash with canary yellow polo shirts. Yet the colour has been adopted in recent months by the supporters of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has staged a four-month protest in Thailand’s Government House and in recent days, Bangkok’s international and domestic airports. People have started avoiding their favourite colour to save being associated with the protests, even in the week of the King’s birthday.

The atmosphere in wider Bangkok since the protests started has been calm and business as usual in general. While the city’s residents don’t take the sporadic and seemingly random spurts of violence and the loss of life and income lightly, there is no sense of widespread panic and concern. International news agencies report airport mayhem and interview distressed and worn-out tourists stranded in the country, yet most Thais I have spoken to only express concern about the potential violence of the situation and concern for the economy.

I passed through Suvarnabhumi International Airport at about 7pm on Tuesday, the day the occupation started. I passed a line of riot police as I headed out to a chaotic carpark to find a taxi with an extremely frustrated driver. I could hear the protest approaching, and it sounded intimidating. Eight days later and the government has been dissolved by the Constitutional Court. The PAD has ceased their protests for now but the capital has also been inundated with pro-government supporters, which means the situation has not been completely diffused.

The situation still simmers, and constant rumours fly around the city. In a highly charged situation gossip can vary from somewhat true to completely preposterous. Yet while people still went about their daily business this week, the colour of their shirts betrayed a deeper concern among the population, and that is more unsettling than any international news report I’ve seen so far.

Bangkok blogwatch:

Stepping stones to a coup. Events in Thailand this week have concentrated minds on the possibility of a coup, once again, unseating a democratically-elected government. With the sieges of Suvarnaphumi and Don Muang airports continuing, the judiciary readying its claws to dismember the institutional basis of the government, and the Prime Minister dashing around the country unable to use his capital, it looks like the country is not that far from opening a proverbial can of worms. — New Mandala

P’Ad no longer for PAD. Ad Carabao is a well-known singer and in 2006 was a PAD supporter making a number of critical statements of Thaksin — but now it seems he is directing his anger at PAD. The Manager has an article complaining that a concert on Saturday he attacked the PAD throughout stating that the seizing of Suvarnbumi caused two of his friends who work for Air Asia to lose their jobs. He called on them to negotiate peacefully. However, when he was speaking about Thaksin he mentioned his support for the poor and helping farmers when in the previous government no one did anything. — Bangkok Pundit

Desperate days for Thailand. It is of course illegal to criticize court decisions and so I will not do it. The Constitutional Court has ruled in an in-no-way surprising move that the People’s Power Party and two coalition parties must be immediately dissolved and their executives banned from political activities for five years (the same ploy was used against Thai Rak Thai a couple of years ago). The judges, who were appointed and paid for by the military junta, brought forward their decision so they would not have to bother with listening to evidence — they believed that they already knew enough. — News In Bangkok

Held Hostage. I have become one of the thousands who have been held hostage by the self-styled People’s Alliance for Democracy indefinitely shutting down Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. After arriving at Seoul’s Incheon Airport to board a flight via Hong Kong to the Thai capital on Wednesday, I was told by the Cathay Pacific staff that it was impossible because the connecting flight from Hong Kong had been cancelled indefinitely, along with all other flights to Bangkok. Indefinitely? Subject to the mercy of the PAD mob or people like Sondhi Limthongkul. — Prachathai

Leaving but what next? So it appears that the PAD have made a decision to leave the airport. But what next? The PPP/TRT program, or whatever alias it chooses, is likely to still prove massively popular. Thaksin has certainly not been defeated and the PAD are still an armed, fascist mob intent on wreaking havoc as and when they will. Thailand’s crisis is likely to rumble on. — Thai Politico

Send Crikey a letter from wherever you live or may be passing through to [email protected] with the title ‘Letter from’ in the subject field. 

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW