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Drones Watch as Bangkok’s Streets Erupt

Drones Watch as Bangkok’s Streets Erupt

The Shinawatra political dynasty just won’t go away, but if protesters on the streets of Bangkok get their way, Thailand’s most powerful political family would be on the way out. Despite being ousted in a military coup in 2006, Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister and billionaire media mogul, is thought to now rule the country remotely through his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, the current prime minister. Protesters have now flooded the streets of Bangkok by the thousands and are engaged in a violent stand off with police as they demand Yingluck’s ouster and seek to destroy the Shinawatras’ political influence once and for all.

While these protests are unlikely to spell the demise of the Shinawatras, they have brought a level of political unrest to Bangkok not seen since 2010. The demonstrators managed to succesfully storm several government buildings last week, including the Finance Ministry and even the Thai army headquarters. It’s a political crisis that has set the stage for a violent showdown between police and protesters.

On Monday, amid a renewed surge by protesters to occupy government buildings, Yingluck said that she would not give into demands for her government to step down. As divisions between the two camps have deepened, violence on the streets of Bangkok escalated sharply on Sunday and into Monday. Police have now launched a violent crackdown on protesters, leaving four dead and more than 110 injured on Sunday. Protesters have launched an energetic campaign to control key parts of Bangkok, and even managed to storm a state-owned telecommunications company, which resulted in a large Internet outage. While much of the capital remains calm, the area around Government House, which serves as the prime minister’s office, has been the scene of intense clashes, a scene vividly captured by drone footage seen below. In the video, police can be seen using water cannons to beat away protesters and firing what appears to be tear gas at the protesters from behind a formidable barricade. 

The use of drones to document protests have become something of a commonplace technique, but the method retains a surreal quality nonetheless. The aircraft have been used both in Moscow and Istanbul to provide video of street protests there. As in Bangkok, drones provided a way to document intense clashes between protesters and police from an oddly disembodied point of view. But whom they benefit isn’t exactly clear. For police, they provide a handy way to document the identities of the demonstrators; for protesters, they provide a convenient way to expose police violence.

Unless, of course, the police shoot them down first.