Red shirts buoyed by support
Many in capital's working and lower-middle classes clearly sympathetic
The massive 20-kilometre-long red-shirt motorcade around Bangkok yesterday proved beyond doubt that many working-class and lower-middle-class people in the capital support the red shirts, as they came out in force to wildly cheer the caravan as if their liberators had arrived. (See photos and video clips inside)
Police estimate 65,000 red shirts took part in the procession with 10,000 motorcycles and 7,000 other vehicles, mostly pickups and lorries, involved. The real numbers are hard to estimate, however.
The seemingly endless motorcade left the protest site at 10am and made its way through major streets such as New Phetchaburi, Ratchadaphisek, Lat Phrao, Ramkhamhaeng and Rama IV.
In the Pratunam area, just in front of Platinum Fashion Mall, at least 200 people along the streets and pedestrians on the overpass ecstatically cheered the red procession as it marched on for more than five hours until 3.45pm.
The whole atmosphere resembled a carnival or fiesta. Many bystanders went onto the streets to interact more closely with those in the procession. The caravan rolled on at what could be considered brisk walking pace.
Many of those cheering the red shirts donned red or had something red on them, such as a handkerchief or a headband. They jumped, danced, waved and shook their foot clappers. They also handed out bottled water to members of arguably the longest political caravan in Thai history.
A clear majority of those waving and cheering were working-class and lower-middle-class people, highlighting the growing disquiet over class inequality among the poor as well as indicating class solidarity.
A clear majority of the sympathisers appeared to be street vendors, clerks, waitresses, hotel cooks, security guards, taxi drivers, motorcycle-taxi riders, and local residents coming from the more congested and poorer parts of Bangkok.
Some shouted: "Abhisit [Vejjajiva, prime minister] get out!" Others shook hands and patted the shoulders of red-shirt protesters who passed by. Looking cheerful and confident, they seemed to have the belief that they would eventually prevail. Car-honking and loud anti-Abhisit and anti-old-elite slogans were heard along the route.
At a restaurant at the Lat Phrao-Ratchadaphisek intersection, one middle-class customer, who is not a red-shirt supporter, told The Nation: "These days people [I met] simply say they want to see either a quick victory or defeat. They're tired of it."
Some hostile reception was reported in areas such as Onnuj and Klong Tan with a bottle thrown at Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship co-leader Natthawut Saikua missing its target in the Klong Tan area.
Anti-red, near Klong Tan
'Bang Rak people don't support violence'
Anti-red, Soi Pridi 4, Sukhumvit (photo from http://www.prachataiwebboard.com/webboard/id/31058)
Many of those who opposed the march, which paralysed much of Bangkok's traffic, kept off the streets and posted their feelings online.
"Why don't they shut their own province down? People are fed up," read one such posting on prachatai.com online newspaper.
Some subway gates were temporarily shut yesterday from 10.40am, leaving those who were trapped agitated. "You are just creating an image that these people are violent and cruel!" one woman commuter told a subway worker at Exit 1 of Phra Ram 9 station. "They don't even carry weapons."
Sutthisan Station (Photos from http://weareallhuman.net/index.php?showtopic=44370)
A man in his mid-fifties was furious, as he could not exit from the gate. "This kind of stupidity will only earn more sympathisers for the reds ... This country has gone nuts! If you're to shut the gate why don't you shut down the whole subway so I won't have to use it."
(Photos from http://weareallhuman.net/index.php?showtopic=44370)
Krishna Sajjadej, a subway staff member, apologised to the 30 or so stranded commuters, who were not easily appeased.
In the afternoon, at a petrol station near the Lat Phrao-Ratchadaphisek intersection, two red shirts speculated as to why Abhisit would not resign or dissolve the House. One said it was because the military and the elites who controlled him had told the premier not to do so. "But we shall eventually oust him," said a middle-aged red shirt.
See more photos by members of Prachatai webboard: