Protests expanding to Silom area

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Barricades along the street, barbed wires on side-walks, armed soldiers patrolling and maintaining security in front of shops – this is Silom Road on Wednesday evening. One of Bangkok’s most popular spots, for both locals and visitors, it increasingly begins to look like an area under siege. Tonight, Red Shirts sit on 2m-high barricades made from bamboo sticks, piles of tires and broken paving stones along Lumpini Park. As they shout slogans, they get replies from a new crowd gathering along Silom Road. The new entrants are carrying banners with pro-government slogans, rising portraits of the King and waiving yellow flags – symbol of the Monarchy. Sporadic fights between red-shirted demonstrators and Bangkok residents took place last night at Silom Road. Violence erupted around 11:30 pm when some pro-government protesters started to throw beer bottles, glasses and other items at the red-shirt protesters who replied by throwing two Molotov cocktails. Both Red Shirts and pro-Monarchy pro-government crowds faced each others around the Dusit Thani Hotel, separated only by the traffic on streets.

The situation seems to be getting worse – after the closing of hotels and shopping centers in the Ratchaprasong area, tonight it was the Silom Complex Plaza’s turn to shut down. The Dusit Thani is now guarded by dozens of policemen in anti-riot gear – an eerie welcoming sign to the guests staying in the hotel. According to newspapers, they are now 10,000 soldiers around the Ratchaprasong/Silom area, facing some 15,000 to 16,000 Red Shirt protesters. Most observers expect now a military crackdown to clear the area following the promise by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to enforce law and order in the country.

A government spokesman said that the current anti-government protests were putting over 60,000 people out of jobs, even though temporarily. Financial losses estimated at THB 20 million (US$ 625,000) per day for businesses located in the Ratchaprasong area.

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Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.