There is a growing confusion amongst many observers as to what else the Thai military are waiting for. These low numbers may not last if protestors again see the army’s threat yesterday to perhaps act was again not realised, writes Nick Paton Walsh.
It is the strangest of standoffs.
I’ve just taken a drive around the protest. To the north, the barricades are almost deserted. The camp to the south – near Silom, previously the heart of the troubles – has many fewer people in it than before.
The West and East of the campsite are also scantily populated. There are a lot of empty sleeping mats on the ground, perhaps more than there are people walking about.
But despite this obvious reduction in crowd size, and the likelihood that a combination of bulldozers and disciplined troops could probably bring this to a relatively unbloody conclusion, the army have not moved in. They have cited the number of women and children being used, they say, as human shields.
I was sent a video link yesterday of a child being held aloft over the tyres of one barricade, near an area where the army were using live rounds. We didn’t use the images in our report as it seems to mischaracterise the protest: to suggest – as the propagators of the video did – that women and children are actively part of the protestors defence strategy here is untrue.
Of course, holding a child aloft in a live fire zone is criminally stupid, but the families here don’t seem coerced and aren’t congregating in risky areas. They’re just an obstinate – or stupid – part of the protest.
Their presence must play into the army’s arithmetic this morning, but there is a growing confusion amongst many observers as to what else the military are waiting for – what sea change they expect to see in the crowd that will significantly ease their job?
It is ebbing, and these low numbers may not last if protestors again see the army’s threat yesterday to perhaps act was again not realised.
New bids at negotiation have failed to really take off, and the government seems set on ending this through sheer strength of will and force. The skyline is quiet at the moment, and the protest shrinking.
If the military had a well-conceived plan to dispel this crowd – perhaps the tear gas, riot shields and slow pattern of arrests that we’ve seen used against protests across the world – now eerily feels like the best moment for them to use it.