Government officials banned all gatherings of five or more people perceived to be trying to "incite unrest" Jan. 23 in Bangkok under the state of emergency, which was implemented a day prior. The move is aimed at ending months of anti-government protests in the city. Despite the ban, police maintain that they will concentrate their efforts on arresting protest leaders rather than dispersing major protest camps. Regardless, any effort to seize the protest leaders could prompt violent clashes between police and demonstrators.
Anti-government protesters have vowed to continue daily demonstrations, despite the state of emergency. Protesters are planning to disrupt early voting slated to occur in Bangkok Jan. 26, either by surrounding the polling stations or blocking roads leading to the facilities. Clashes could erupt if police try to clear the protesters; however, to date, security forces have not made any major effort to disperse demonstrations.
The Constitutional Court is slated to rule Jan. 24 on whether the Feb. 2 elections and associated early voting will proceed as planned. If the court rules against the timeline, pro-government supporters will likely step up their demonstrations in northern and eastern Thailand, and may move into Bangkok. However, a ruling in favor of the vote schedule could prompt intensified action by the anti-government demonstrators.
Under the state of emergency, security forces also have the right to prohibit vehicles from certain areas and to require localized evacuations. Such actions will likely only be implemented if police attempt to disperse the protesters, due to the risk of violence associated with such an action.
Background and Analysis
Since the "Shutdown Bangkok" action began Jan. 13, protest camps have been erected at Pathumwan, Lat Phrao, Chaeng Wattana, Victory Monument, Lumpini Park, Ratchaprasong, and Asok-Sukhumvit (map). From these camps, protesters have staged daily marches, often targeting government buildings (map) and forcing their closure. The protests have remained focused against the government; despite the daily events, most businesses in Bangkok continue to operate. The protests are significantly increasing already severe traffic congestion in Bangkok, but police are on hand to detour traffic onto available routes, so travel remains possible.
The anti-government demonstrations have been largely peaceful. However, there have been several attacks targeting the protesters in recent days, including minor bombings Jan. 17 and 19 that left one protester dead and 67 injured. The protest camps have also been subject to a number of drive-by shootings, generally late at night.
Avoid all protests. Use caution if traveling around protest sites, as most march routes are not announced in advance. If protesters begin a march in your vicinity, immediately seek shelter indoors, or leave the area. Allow additional time for travel, especially if venturing near any of the above rally sites or to the airport. Confirm operational status of businesses adjacent to the rally sites before departure. Comply with all instructions from security forces. Carry proper identification documents at all times.