It was an excited but peaceful crowd that gathered in Lumphini Park, Bangkok, early yesterday morning to protest the reprinting of the Danish Muhammad drawings and what they call ‘a second insult’ of the Prophet Muhammad.
More than 600 Muslims walked from Lumphini Park to the grounds of the Danish embassy to raise their voices in asking the Thai Muslim community to condemn the reprinting of the drawings and boycott all Danish products.
Even though the demonstration went on peacefully, burning of the Danish flag and of banners with an imprint of the Danish Prime Minister and the Danish cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, occurred.
Abdul Aziz, a member of The Muslim Group for Peace, who arranged the demonstration, said that the protesters were not gathering at the Danish embassy to get into a dialogue with the Danish government through the ambassador. They were simply there to speak their minds and condemn the cartoons. According to Abdul Aziz, Islam calls for the killing of the Danish cartoonists and media persons involved in the matter. But as the Muslim Group for Peace recognizes Thai legislation, the protesters claimed that violent phrases on banners and posters such as ‘Kill Them’ and ‘Do We Have Freedom To Bomb?’ were merely a way of expression and should not be considered a direct threat.
Danish ambassador, Michael Sternberg, went outside the embassy on his own initiative to invite the leaders of the demonstration inside the embassy for a discussion. This invitation was declined.
“They were not interested in speaking to me, they just wanted to read their statements and praise Allah,” the ambassador said.
He explained that the embassy had known about the demonstration for about a week prior to yesterday’s event, but other than extra attention from the local police, no further measures had been made in regards to the demonstration. The ambassador explained:
“I have not felt threatened at any point. Earlier today I heard rumors that I had fled to the airport in fright, and that I was leaving for Denmark, but of course that is not true. Thailand and Denmark have very strong relations, and also the Muslim community in Thailand is not as vast as for instance in Pakistan and Afghanistan, so I have not had any serious concerns in regards to the demonstration today.”
Around noon the demonstration dissolved peacefully in front of the Danish embassy, and the embassy does not expect any further acts in term of the reprinting of the Muhammad drawings.
On previous occasions there have also been demonstrations in the Indonesian and Malaysian capitals, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, due to the reprinting of the Muhammad drawings in the Danish newspapers.