Following the proposal of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to hold elections on November 14 as part of his “roadmap to national reconciliation,” the situation in Bangkok is now less tense. Some have even started to dare to forecast an end to the city center occupation by the Red Shirts.
This prudent optimism surfaced over the last two days when the leaders of the Red Shirts finally accepted the principle of having new elections held in November. Speaking at the Rachaprasong Red Shirts’ Central Stage on Tuesday night, Red Shirt leader Natthawut Saikua declared that only the Election Commission had the authority to set an election date and not the prime minister.
The PM, however, does have the power to dissolve the assembly, and the Red Shirts are now expecting PM Abhisit Vejjajiva to announce the date for the parliament’s dissolution. Mr. Nattawut, who spoke in English for the international media, explained that the Red Shirts would only leave Central Bangkok when dissolution was officially confirmed.
Mr. Nattawut also vowed to look carefully with his movement at the freedom of the media – including the ones reporting about the Red Shirts – to cover a fair election process, as well as justice for those Red Shirt protestors who were killed on April 10 in some of the most violent clashes with the army seen in Bangkok in the last two decades.
There is meanwhile a sense of optimism with most people living in Central Bangkok feeling that things will soon be back to normal. Around 300 employees from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration are ready to start cleaning the area with private business –especially hotels- likely to help to beautify again the city center. In the last few days, Red Shirts’ camp between Lumpini Park and Rachaprasong looked more and more like a gigantic dump as garbage was not collected anymore by municipal services. The Four Seasons Hotel has even announced to be ready to open back by May 9, according to a report by the Bangkok Post. Total cleaning could cost up to THB 2 or 3 million (US$ 62,000 to US$ 92,000).