For months, the neighbors of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva have endured increased security checks and traffic snarls. Even when he’s not staying at his modest, two-story house, police keep watch 24/7.
On Wednesday, a new threat materialized: thousands of red-shirted protesters carrying plastic bottles of their blood. A day earlier, they had gone to Mr. Abhisit’s office and his political party’s headquarters to splash the donated blood and denounce their enemies.
Now, it was time to do the same at the prime minister’s private residence (there is no official one).
Rows of riot police blocked all entrances to the two-lane street, which is popular with Japanese expatriates and hosts a thriving ecosystem of smart cafes, wine shops, and spas. These businesses had shut their doors, and staff and residents hovered outside to watch the political theater.
By midmorning, the two sides were locked into place, the reds at the main entrance to the street, pumping music from their trucks and motorbikes, and the cops in formation wearing black protective gear with plastic shields (and no weapons).
Then the heavens opened. Nobody blinked. The music kept going, as did the chants of “Abhisit, get out.”
Negotiations eventually allowed for a small group of red shirts to carry out their bloody rite at the wooden fence in front of Abhisit’s corner house. It was rowdy, but as much for the TV cameras and reporters jostling for positions as the red shirts themselves.
What they saw was the ritual splashing of the blood on, and over, the fence, to the cheers of the crowd behind the police cordon.
Much of it washed into the street, where security officials stood ready with disinfectant, though the rain did much of the work.
Photographers crouched down for the inevitable shot of blood running in the streets, around the feet of the sodden riot police. At least in this case, it was blood freely given, vial by vial, not shed in violence.
Satisfied with their protest, the convoy of demonstrators turned back and headed off to the American embassy for a brief rally there.
By lunchtime, it was all over at the prime minister’s house. As if on cue, the rain stopped.