A video shot on the streets of Bangkok on Tuesday shows riot police huddled behind shields, girding themselves for an attack from protesters. A grenade is thrown at the police column. An officer attempts to kick it away. But he's too late.
It's one of the most gruesome scenes yet captured on video during Thailand's protests. Demonstrators first took to the streets months ago, accusing the government of rampant corruption and calling for it to step down.
Violence, however, has escalated in recent days after an attempted crackdown by security forces. Now everyone is waiting to see if another coup — it sometimes seems like Thailand is always in the midst of a coup — will take place.
GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Patrick Winn wrote that the source of the unrest could be traced to a government policy on rice that went bad:
Like baguettes in France or barbecue in Memphis, rice in Thailand transcends mere grub.
To Thais, the cherished white grain is nourishment defined. The masses who conjure it from the earth occupy a low but noble place in society. They also happen to make up a significant portion of the country’s voters.
This explains why, for the past three years, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government has vowed to buy every grain of Thai rice at a whopping premium — up to 50 percent the market rate.
More than just savvy populist politics, the idea was pitched to the nation as a neat win-win. Not only would down-and-out rice farmers earn more, but the government would corner the rice market and drive up the global price. The promise amounted to a hedge fund-style high-stakes bet with borrowed cash.
This wild ambition is now imploding.
The policy has deposed Thailand as the world’s No. 1 rice exporter — long a point of national pride. It even threatens to take down the prime minister, whose indebted government is struggling to pay farmers.
Last week, Thailand abruptly announced that the subsidy scheme would end this month, because the caretaker government has no authority to extend it. The government, however, has refused to rule out reviving the program in the future.
“It’s unwise to anger people of the fields,” said Phanom Jaichum, a 63-year-old rice farmer from Kanchanaburi, a Thai province on Myanmar’s border. “There are a lot of us. Enough to determine who gets elected and who doesn’t. They shouldn’t make us upset.”
Yingluck’s party, Pheu Thai, has accidentally done just that.
You can watch the video of Tuesday's attack here. Below is a video posted to YouTube, which shows the attack from another angle.