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Courage!

UPDATE The Wall Street Journal adds:

BANGKOK--Pop-up protests [see above] are spreading around Thailand's capital in a growing show of dissent against the latest in a long line of military juntas here.

The rallies, lasting an hour or two at a time, aren't what the generals had in mind when they staged the 12th successful coup d'état in Thailand's modern history.

It isn't clear whether isolated protests popping up around Bangkok over the past day or so will develop into a sustained campaign against the coup. With many of the Red Shirt's prominent leaders still in detention, lower-ranking members of the activist group, which is formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, have been improvising their own ad hoc response.

"I think the speed and severity of what happened caught them by surprise. They are hunkered down waiting to see how it plays out," said Paul Quaglia, director at Bangkok-based risk assessment firm PQA Associates. "But it would be a mistake to assume they will just swallow this. They are still pretty organized at a grass-roots level. That's why the military has come down on them so hard."

On Saturday, hundreds of pro-democracy protesters surrounded Victory Monument in the center of Bangkok in defiance of the junta and demanded a swift return to democracy. And the relatively modest individual protests in Bangkok and in other cities since the coup together have surpassed the scale of demonstrations against the previous military coup, in 2006.

This time it's different. Really!

Participants in the latest protests have ranged from members of the Red Shirt movement to ordinary Thais angry about the coup. "I didn't vote for the last government. I didn't like their policies, and I don't like Thaksin Shinawatra," said one of the protesters, 27-year-old Nattapong Kaewbaen, referring to the billionaire populist businessman who was overthrown as Thailand's leader in 2006.

One of the protest organizers, 22-year-old Chinawat Chankrachang, described using Facebook and the Line instant-messaging service to help shepherd Saturday's protests. "At first I thought only 40 or 50 people would come. But when people saw on social media that we were here at Victory Monument, they came out to join us," Mr. Chinawat said. "This is our way of showing people not to be afraid, that it's all right to ask for democracy."

I saw this happening, actuallly. One protest started at a mall with a movie theatre in a northern suburb, and then they marched down to join the demo at Victory Monument.

Analysts and members of the Red Shirt movement said it could take weeks for the group to regroup to stage significant protests, despite the pop-up protests around Bangkok on Saturday and earlier displays of dissent on Friday. "At the moment we're just waiting to see what will happen and we are afraid for the leaders' safety," said a Red Shirt activist in Bangkok who asked not to be identified. "We accept the coup took place and we have to be patient, but we will make our voice heard."

Participants in the latest protests have ranged from members of the Red Shirt movement to ordinary Thais angry about the coup. "I didn't vote for the last government. I didn't like their policies, and I don't like Thaksin Shinawatra," said one of the protesters, 27-year-old Nattapong Kaewbaen, referring to the billionaire populist businessman who was overthrown as Thailand's leader in 2006.

Mr. Thaksin's whose close allies, including his sister Ms. Yingluck have run the country for much of the time since. "But I don't agree with the coup," Mr. Nattapong said. "We should be allowed an election to solve our own problems."

After pro-Thaksin rallies on the streets of Bangkok turned violent in 2010, provoking security forces to launch a crackdown that ultimately claimed nearly 100 lives, many Red Shirts returned home with a much deeper sense of grievance. "That moment was a turning point for us. Now we know that what we are fighting for is democracy and an end to the double standards that exist in the country, the way there is one law for the rich and another for the poor," said Thongpan Thalangtham, a retired colonel [!!] in Thailand's northeastern province of Roi Et, in an interview earlier this year.

Not every Red-Shirt protester is a Thaksin supporter. Take Sombat Boonngamangong, for instance. Based in Bangkok, he has long shrugged off any attachment to either Mr. Thaksin or his sister, Ms. Yingluck. Instead, he describes his goal as securing equal say for everybody in Thailand, regardless of their social status and that is why he says he supports the Red Shirts.

Mr. Sombat earlier refused to comply with an army order to turn himself in, instead suggesting that the army try and find him at a downtown branch of the McDonald's burger restaurant chain. Soldiers surrounded the eatery early Sunday.

One subtlety: It's 96 degrees F in Bangkok right now. MacDonald's has air con. Something less subtle: These demonstrators are risking arrest, beating, shooting, or room 101. All the marchers around Bangkok weren't risking that, since that ginormous flaming asshole Suthep quite evidently had impunity, and they were under his protection.

And the "pop-up" demos remind me very much of "the power of small multiples." Right now, the Army only has to cope with one or two a day. Suppose it were a hundred? In a way, I'm happy that the UDD is taking awhile to get rolling; let's see if the more Bangkokian pop-ups really get going, before the more heirarchical UDD comes in.

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V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

...chastising the police for blocking their demonstration.
And having the police back off because of that.
Ha! Not going to happen...

Submitted by lambert on

... weren't all that interested in shutting the demo down?