IT was Valentine’s Day when I last saw security forces try to push protesters out of inner Bangkok.
Back then, the anti-government groups had occupied the vast Ratchadamnoen Nok avenue for over two months and fortified their improvised entrances with barriers and sandbags.
It was tense. Tense enough for columns of police to retreat immediately when enraged protesters tried to reclaim their rally site by hauling in new sandbags and when a small explosive went off near the confrontation zone.
Fast forward three months, and it was a different picture altogether as soldiers cleared the site of protesters.
In the dim glow of streetlights, bedraggled supporters of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee quietly hauled sacks of belongings to a staging point where the army had arranged buses for them to return home outside Bangkok.
It had been nearly seven months since the protesters first took to the streets, invaded government offices, sabotaged the Feb 2 election and shut down key intersections in Bangkok in a bid to overthrow the Puea Thai-party run government.
Enter army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha (pic), who had previously stayed on the sidelines of Thailand’s six-month long political crisis despite repeated pleas from protesters to intervene.
He relented on Tuesday, swiftly declaring martial law and staging a coup – the army’s 12th – just two days later.
Just as swiftly, he sent troops in to disperse anti- and pro-government supporters massed in different parts of Bangkok.
The whole nation, meanwhile, had to contend with the now familiar rituals that come with a Thai-style military coup.
A curfew was set from 10pm to 5am, creating a massive crush at skytrain stations.
Viewers tuned into any TV channel were reduced to watching a static screen of the newly created “National Peace and Order Maintaining Council” and martial songs.
Every few minutes, a military spokesman read out new announcements issued by General Prayuth. The messages would continue till the wee hours of Friday, when the country would wake up to new realities of life under the men in green – yet again. — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network