Bangkok rail system brought to dead stop


PROTESTERS OPPOSED to the government shut down Bangkok’s elevated railway system during the morning rush hour yesterday.

The move caused chaos, prompting the government to threaten tougher steps to end growing unrest in the seven-week crisis that has killed 26 and devastated the tourism industry.

The Red Shirts, many of whom support exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and are mostly rural and urban poor, stacked tyres on the platform of the Sky Train near their Silom Road protest site. They said they are planning to widen their protests beyond the area they have occupied in downtown Bangkok to other areas of the Thai capital. “We will distribute pamphlets . . . If the troops stop us, we will break through roadblocks,” said Kwanchai Praipanna, a Red Shirt protest leader.

This provocative move could prompt further clashes, and the government has said it will “not be lenient” with further protests.

There is still a feeling that a crackdown is imminent. Prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has rejected a compromise by the protesters for an election in three months. However, the army is believed to be unwilling to risk a forcible eviction because of the potential for blood-letting. The last effort to move protesters by force, on April 10th, killed 25 and wounded hundreds.

At the same time, pro-government groups are gathering and holding their own rallies.