THAI protesters seeking a change of government turned to shock tactics yesterday, pouring gallons of their own blood into a puddle at the gate of the prime minister’s office.
The dramatic gesture, repeated in front of the headquarters of prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiava’s Democrat Party, grabbed attention, but put the “Red Shirt” protest movement no closer to its goal of forcing new elections.
More than 100,000 demons
trators gathered in Bangkok on Sunday, vowing to keep up their protest until victory. But the prime minister has rejected their demands to dissolve parliament, saying only that he will listen to the protesters’ point of view, leaving the situation in a stalemate.
The protesters comprise supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was removed by a 2006 military coup for alleged corruption, and pro-democracy activists who opposed the army takeover.
They believe Mr Abhisit came to power illegitimately with the connivance of the military and other parts of the ruling class who were alarmed by Mr Thaksin’s popularity, particularly among the poor.
Thailand has been in turmoil since early 2006, when anti-Thaksin demonstrations began.
In 2008, when Mr Thaksin’s political allies came back to power for a year, his “Yellow Shirt” opponents occupied the prime minister’s office compound for three months and seized Bangkok’s two airports for a week.
Yesterday, thousands of Red Shirts formed long queues to have their blood drawn by nurses, a day after their leaders vowed to collect at least one million cubic centimetres of blood to spill at Government House. They claimed to have collected 300,000cc.
Suriya Laemthong, 28, shielded his eyes with a baseball cap as a nurse pricked his arm. He said he doubted that the blood spilling would compel the government to step down, but said he found the protest leaders’ strategy “rational and acceptable”.
A few teaspoons of blood were drawn from each volunteer and then transferred into dozens of large plastic water jugs, which were passed overhead through the crowd, before being delivered to Government House.
“When we see gallons and gallons of blood here, instead of feeling frightened and horrified, we feel proud that this is the mutual expression of the Thai people,” proclaimed Natthawut Saikua, another Red Shirt leader.
The Red Shirts say that if the people are willing to sacrifice their blood, Mr Abhisit should show similar spirit by relinquishing power. Riot police allowed protest leaders to approach the iron front gate and pour out the blood, which oozed under the gate as national television broadcast the images live.
A purported Brahmin priest performed a black magic ritual on the Red Shirts’ behalf.
“The blood of the common people is mixing together to fight for democracy,” Natthawut told cheering supporters.
“When Abhisit works in his office, he will be reminded that he is sitting on the people’s blood.”
Minutes afterwards, a government medical clean-up team in white coats, face masks and rubber gloves hosed down the site. Health authorities had warned that the protest risked spreading disease if infected blood splashed healthy bystanders.
Hundreds of protesters then marched and rode pick-up trucks and motorcycles to the nearby ruling Democrat Party headquarters and splashed several more jugs of blood on the pavement outside.
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