We’re all missing Nick Nostitz, aren’t we? I’m sure he’ll be back on New Mandala soon.
Here’s a suggestion for the meantime. In honor of his superb reporting, and to make some lousy compensation for its absence, please post some impressions of the “shut down” in the comments after this short post. I’ll start the ball rolling.
I’ve walked round the Asoke site several times in the last few days, once at Silom, and twice at Rajprasong, once early morning, once at night. I also walked some way with Suthep’s march through Sukumwit on Wednesday (15 January 2013).
1. The turnout is quite low. At Rajprasong, it’s very difficult to estimate numbers because the site extends in several directions. At Asoke, it’s easier. On the night of 17 January, I arrived as Suthep was speaking. The audience was seated northwards along Asoke in neat lines so it was easy to walk through and count: about 5,000. Immediately he finished speaking, the crowd dissolved, leaving a few hundred people. That’s also what you see in the early morning. At lunchtime, there’s around a thousand, huddling under the shade of the Skytrain.
2. The proportion of bussed-in southerners in the crowd is high, especially in the off-peak times. In Suthep’s march through Sukumwit, they seemed to be in a majority, carrying signs identifying their province. There were also contingents from the east, Trat and Chonburi.
3. Although it was not among the seven sites identified in advance, the core area of the 2010 Red Shirt protest, Rajprasong, has become the core area of this one. Reclaiming territory.
4. The atmosphere there is remarkably similar to 2010, largely because of the imports from the south, dominated by swarthy dark young men in army-surplus gear and shades. The paler, more genteel Bangkokians often seem uneasy in this atmosphere.
1. Asoke, early morning
2. Asoke, noon
3. Asoke noon, crowd by the stage
4. Asoke noon, clappers
5. Silom, morning
6. Silom, morning
7. Silom, kitting up
Chris Baker is a Thailand-based writer and analyst. His recent books include A History of Thailand (with Pasuk Phongpaichit) and The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Paen (translated and edited with Pasuk Phongpaichit).