The 'Big Mango', as Bangkok is sometimes affectionally known, has today braced itself for the long expected, and long dreaded (in some circles), 'Red Shirt' rally and protest. The goal of the RSs has not always been clearly enunciated. At first the rally was merely to be a protest, a protest based on long simmering resentment of the dismissal of two RS governments, but sparked by the asset seizure of part of the wealth of the RS movement leader and former Prime Minister, Mr Thaksin. However, it is now clear that the RSs demand a change of government.
Saturday the 13th marked the first full day of RS activity in Bangkok. The main streets were filled with RS members in cars and pickup trucks. RS marshals were situated at major intersections. However, the numbers did not look anywhere near the quoted 'million man march'. The mood of the RSs was festive, there was much cheering and smiling at the onlookers, and many of the onlookers cheered back. There was no sign of violence or provocation—however, this is only day 1.
Based as they are in the rural north east Esarn province of Thailand, the RS supporters need to spend a day in travel from their homes to reach Bangkok. Their cause—social justice, or at least what they believe to be a better and fairer deal for the poorer people of Thailand. A complex story and issue.
The Red Shirts must win to form a new government. The incumbent government must simply hang onto power to win. A new day awaits...