Its Songkran in Thailand. This usually means fun times and relaxation with the family. In many other parts of the world Easter is ensuring that millions are enjoying a well-deserved holiday break.
But there will be no immediate vacation for the Thai government, or its security forces, as they struggle to come to grips with the postponement of the East Asia Summit (ASEAN++) which was scheduled for Pattaya this weekend. Earlier today, thousands of Red Shirts stormed the venue and the Thai government has announced that the planned meetings are now off. A state of emergency for Pattaya and the surrounding province has reportedly been declared. All of the normal Thai sources are carrying the story, and it has broken through to the top rung on the major global news services. This is the big news of Easter 2009.
As a protest tactic the storming of the East Asia Summit venue must rank alongside last year’s week-long siege at Suvarnabhumi Airport for its audacity. Both episodes show that, at least in the case of Thailand, crowd numbers and commitment can overwhelm the security forces. Looking at the pictures from the frontline in Pattaya it appears that the police were, with much effort, pushed out of the way.
The Reds have declared their intention to return to Bangkok to continue their protests.
At this stage, some key details remain unclear and the initial reports are, as is the nature of such things, relatively sketchy. Exactly what happened during the effort to storm the Summit site is still hazy. New Mandala readers with thoughts or information on this evolving situation can offer their comments here.