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Thailand protests: Who’s in control of Bangkok?

As Thais flout state of emergency, the army looks on.

In televised negotiations with protest leaders last week, the prime minister agreed to their principal demand — dissolving parliament and holding new elections — but said the process would take nine months. The Red Shirt leadership demanded dissolution in 15 days and left to redouble their efforts in the streets.

The government has so far threatened to break up rallies with sonic cannons, which can cause severe ear pain, and water cannons. But any crackdown involving force could endanger children and elderly Thais who are also camped out in central Bangkok and play poorly to a Buddhist-driven society with little appetite for violence.

Many from Bangkok’s laboring class help sustain protests. But the Red Shirts remain largely unpopular amongst urban, moneyed, connected Thais — the target of protesters’ ire.

“The Red Shirts are annoying. They’ve made Bangkok feel so frantic,” said Piriya Kampusiri, an 18-year-old student at Bangkok’s Thammasat University. “Plus, foreigners are going to think Thailand is dangerous. Tourists, please come! Don’t be scared!”