Embassy Warns Burmese to Avoid Protests in Bangkok

By Than Htike Oo 8 January 2014

Burmese nationals who find themselves in Thailand over the coming days should take precautions to safeguard their personal security due to political tensions in the neighboring country, the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok warned this week.

The notice comes as the so-called People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), an anti-Thai government group led by former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, plans a “Bangkok Shutdown” protest of mass rallies at 20 major locations in the Thai capital on Jan. 13.

The embassy also asked Burmese citizens to avoid political gatherings or protests before or on the PDRC’s target date.

“Burmese people in Thailand are urged not to get involved in any mass protest and to keep themselves away from rally sites in order to maintain the Thailand-Myanmar good friendship status; for their security; and to avoid issues that would affect the goodwill between the two countries,” the notice said on Monday.

A similar statement was issued by the Burmese Embassy in December of last year, amid growing anti-government protests in Thailand.

Meanwhile, the Thai-language website Daily News reported on Tuesday that Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Thailand’s caretaker deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, had asked his country’s Ministry of Labor to keep tabs on migrant workers and prevent them from participating in any demonstrations.

Surapong reportedly said he issued the order out of concern for those workers’ safety, adding that his government had made security arrangements for the Jan. 13 rallies.

A Burmese national living in Bangkok told The Irrawaddy that Burmese migrant workers would likely face transportation problems during the planned PDRC mass protest.

“Since 20 protest sites will be blocked, Burmese workers will find it difficult to move around on that day,” he said. “Prices of basic foodstuffs have now gone up considerably.”

He added that the rise in commodity prices would likely cause hardships for the migrant workers because their daily incomes had not kept pace with the rise in living expenses.

On the day the Burmese Embassy issued its warning, a Burmese man in Thailand was reportedly shot and received treatment at Ramathibodi Hospital in Bangkok.

The ongoing anti-government protests against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra began in early November, triggered by a proposed amnesty bill that would facilitate the return of her elder brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The bill was passed by the Pheu Thai Party-dominated House of Representatives on Nov. 1 but was rejected by the Senate on Nov. 11.

Thaksin has been in self-imposed exile since he was ousted by a military coup in 2006.

Many migrant workers reportedly participated in 2010 pro-Thaksin protests in Bangkok organized by his supporters, known as the Red Shirts. Thirteen Burmese migrant workers were arrested during those demonstrations.