I arrived at 9 am, 30 000 to 40 000 Red Shirts have already gathered at Sanam Luang and surroundings.
The festivities began with a Brahman ceremony.
Songs were sung on the stage; Red Shirt leaders danced and sang along. On Sanam Luang a large rectangle was fenced off for the procession.
Red clothed boxes containing the signatures were brought into the fenced-off area. Red shirts with national flags and monks formed up in the procession. I spoke with a construction site laborer who took a day off work to take part. He pointed out that he and his family came by themselves, and were not paid. While his wife breastfed their youngest child, he explained that in his home village in Buriram about half of the people were still supporting Newin Chidchob, the other half were not supporting him anymore.
Soon after Thaksin’s brief phone-in, the procession commenced. It rounded Sanam Luang and stopped in front of the Grand Palace. The boxes with the signatures were lined up at a small stage. One woman fainted – the heat and humidity was almost unbearable.
The Red Shirt leaders went to meet the officials of the Office of the Kings’s Principal Secretary, and handed over the petition. There was a huge crowd of photographers and videographers, and only two small points where we could take pictures. I was lucky to get the image – snapped on my out-stretched arm over the heads of several of my colleagues.
The boxes with the petition were stamped and signed by palace officials, and loaded by police officers into 5 trucks. The count was 383 boxes.
The Red Shirts dispersed. After I heard that at the court nothing happened, and no Blue Shirts appeared, I went home as well.
When I passed ASTV at Phra Arthit Road I saw a small commotion, and parked my motorcycle. 20 to 30 PAD guards in front of ASTV and opposite at Ban Phra Arthit shouted at passing taxis, vans and busses with Red Shirts. Some of the PAD guards shot with slingshots at the vehicles, and threw stones. At first they wanted to chase me away, but after I insisted that I would stay and take photos, we came to some sort of agreement – I could take images, but without showing their faces. At least, while I was there, they let Red Shirts in tuk-tuks and motorcycles pass, and only fired at the cars and buses. One of the guards said that they did not want to hurt anybody, but just scare them.
Soon police arrived – one car and several motorcycles. The guards went back into the ASTV office and the situation calmed down.
Never before in Thailand has a large political movement filed a petition to the King – this was a historic day. The stakes of the conflict have been raised clearly, and it is difficult to predict where this will lead. The opponents of the Red Shirts are enraged by what they see as an attack on the monarchy and, as I could see already at the end of the petition day, further violence is probable.