An extremely volatile situation in Thailand right now ...

Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 05:22 pm
Bangkok clashes: Map

Map of protest areas in Bangkok


Ratchaprasong intersection and the main red-shirt camp: The protest hub, with a stage area and other facilities

Pathum Wanaram Temple: declared a safe area for women and children within the red zone

Dusit Thani hotel: Guests evacuated on Monday after gunfire and explosions just outside the hotel

Ratchaprarop road: One of the flashpoints around the red zone; declared a "live fire zone" by troops on Saturday

Bon Kai area: Another flashpoint and the scene of violent clashes on Sunday after protesters built a barricade

Lumpini Park: A Bangkok landmark and the site of the protesters' largest barricade; several clashes to the south and east of this area in recent days.

General shot: Pro-protest general Khattiya Sawastipol, also know as Commander Red, shot on 13 May; he died in hospital on 17 May

Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 09:46 pm
Latest (video) update & commentary from the ABC. It gives a good picture of what conditions are like in Bangkok at the moment.
As for the military's claims that children were being used as "human shields" (or one child has? ) by the red shirts .. well who knows? There are definitely children there, but then there have been since the red shirts' protest began in mid-March. There are whole families in those barricades.
Now that the UN has become involved in attempting to find a resolution to the conflict & there is so much more world media attention, the army & Thai government appear to be conducting more of a propaganda campaign, calling the red shirts "terrorists" & now this "child shield" claim.
One wonders what would be occurring on the streets there now, if there was not such close UN & world media scrutiny of the situation.:

Bangkok human shield claim
Source: The Midday Report
Published: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 12:48 AEST
Expires: Monday, August 16, 2010 12:48 AEST

Thailand's army has accused Red Shirt protesters of using a child as a human shield in deadly clashes on the streets of Bangkok.

Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 10:03 pm
From that ABC video report: there are now 32 thousand Thai military troops surrounding the red shirts' protest area in Bangkok.
0 Replies
Reply Tue 18 May, 2010 01:35 am

Thai protesters 'accept mediation offer'

Leaders of Thailand's anti-government protesters say they will accept an offer by senators to mediate talks, amid growing pressure to end violence.

Soldier takes his position in Bangkok on 17 May 2010

There have been five days of violent clashes in Bangkok

A leader of the "red-shirt" protesters said the group would agree to the proposal to prevent more loss of life.

But it is not yet clear whether the government will take part in the talks.

BBC correspondents in Thailand say pressure is growing on both sides to end the crisis, amid high tension in the capital. ...<cont>

0 Replies
Reply Tue 18 May, 2010 04:03 pm
Stalemate. The Thai government has refused the offer of mediated negotiations.
So now it's a waiting game to see what happens next.
The latest update from ABC news.:

Stalemate in Bangkok
Source: ABC News
Published: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 6:55 AEST
Expires: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 6:55 AEST

Correspondent Matt Brown reports from Bangkok, where negotiations between the government and Red Shirt protesters have hit a wall.

0 Replies
Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 12:22 am
BBC Report, including video:


Thai troops enter red-shirt protest camp in Bangkok

6:00 GMT, Wednesday, 19 May 2010 7:00 UK

BBC reporter Chris Hogg: "Troops are firing into the camp"

Thai soldiers with armoured vehicles have stormed the barricaded camp occupied by anti-government protesters, after days of clashes in Bangkok.

At least four people have been killed, including an Italian photojournalist, and dozens wounded as demonstrators and army units exchange fire.

Troops have gained control of an area south of the site and some protesters have fled, said a government spokesman.

The government said the security operation would be continuing all day.

It insists talks are only possible if the protesters leave the streets.

"We are still ready to talk. My line is open but protest has to end first," said government advisor Korbsak Sabhavasau.

The military made loudspeaker announcements on Wednesday morning: "Please leave the site immediately. Officials are about to conduct an operation."
Continue reading the main story Map of protest areas in Bangkok Bangkok clashes: Map Protests: Eyewitness account

Armoured personnel carriers and soldiers later entered the southern perimeter of the red-shirt protesters' site, after smashing through the bamboo-and-tyre barricades.

"This is D-Day," one soldier was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Several thousand people - including women and children - are believed to be inside the camp, which stretches from the shopping district south to the business area.

The troops' move followed six days of clashes around the camp, triggered by a government operation to seal the area and the subsequent death of renegagde general who backed the protests.

About 40 people have been killed in clashes since last week.

In a separate development, ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra warned that "a military crackdown can spread resentment and these resentful people will become guerrillas".

Mr Thaksin was speaking in a telephone interview from an unknown location.

On Tuesday, red-shirt leaders accepted the offer of fresh talks to be overseen by senior Senate figures, but they floundered on the government insistence that the protesters must first leave the camp.

The two sides have been trading increasingly bitter accusations in recent days. ...<cont>


Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 12:32 am
From the AGE (au), includes video report:


Two journalists among five killed in Bangkok as death toll rises

May 19, 2010 - 4:15PM/the AGE

Clashes between red shirt protesters and troops intensify on the streets of Thailand's capital.

Two foreign journalists are among at least five people killed as the Thai army engages in bloody battle with Red Shirt protesters in central Bangkok, reports say.

Are you in Bangkok? Email us with news and pictures or MMS 0406 THE AGE (+61 406 843 243).

Police and hospital sources this afternoon said five people, including an Italian journalist, had been killed as government troops breached the protesters' compound.

Thai troops aboard an armoured personnel carrier take aim at anti-government protesters in Lumpini Park in downtown Bangkok.

In a recent development, elite troops deployed in the capital have been authorised to shoot on sight people looting, committing arson or inciting unrest, a police spokesman said.

"Metropolitan Police deployed about 1000 rapid movement troops and if they find looting, arson or anybody inciting unrest, police are authorised to shoot immediately," police spokesman Major General Piya Uthayo said.

An AFP photographer saw two protesters lying dead inside the camp, while hospital officials said an Italian journalist was killed in the clashes.

A Thai army soldier aims his weapon during the operation. Photo: Reuters


0 Replies
Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 12:51 am
Grim episode will not end saga
May 19, 2010/the Times (UK)
Anne Barrowclough: Behind-the-Story

This promises to be the grimmest day yet in Bangkok as troops move in to break up the anti-government protest rally that has paralysed the centre of the capital since March.

Even if they succeed in evicting the Red Shirts from their protest camp in Ratchaprasong, one of the Thai capital’s most elite districts, the troops will almost certainly not succeed in ending the campaign to oust the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, who came to power in 2008.

The Red Shirts, an increasingly organised group of rural and urban poor are mainly from northeast Thailand. They support Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted Prime Minister, and consider the government to be illegitimate, a claim with some truth in it. They are demanding fresh elections.

Mr Abhisit’s Democrat Party has never won an election under his leadership. He came to power not through any democratic mandate but through the support of powerful friends including leaders of the military. He is backed by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), an organisation made up of the Thai elite who in 2008 drove the government from power and closed Bangkok airport for weeks, paving the way for Mr Abhisit’s election.
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Although they call themselves democrats, the PAD are determined that power should never be shared with the peasant class who got their first taste of real democracy under Mr Thaksin. The former Prime Minister has sent a lawyer to Bangkok to support the Red Shirts. The question has to be asked: is he easing his own return to Thailand, and to power?

0 Replies
Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 12:53 am
0 Replies
Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 02:28 am
The powers that be, backed by the military, have hung onto their power & privileges.
I doubt there was any real intention to negotiate with the red shirts. What the government of Thailand wanted was surrender, an end to the protests, nothing more, nothing less.
My heart hurts for the rural poor of Thailand.:

Red Shirts surrender after deadly crackdown
By Matt Brown and agencies
Updated 32 minutes ago/ABC online news.

The Thai army says the situation at the protest site is now under control. (Reuters: Caren Firouz)

Anti-government protest leaders have surrendered at police headquarters in Bangkok after a deadly military offensive to end long-running demonstrations.

Bangkok police said at least five people were killed and more than 50 injured as the Thai military cracked down on a protest camp in the city's centre.

The army says it has halted its operation against the Red Shirts and the situation at the camp is under control, ending a six-week stand-off which has paralysed parts of Bangkok.

At least four Red Shirt leaders turned themselves in and asked thousands of supporters in the camp to leave.

"I ask everyone to go home," said senior Red Shirt figure Nattawut Saikuar in a television interview from the National Police Office, where he was in custody.

"There will be police guarding the road and providing security for you. I hope that you return home safely."

Earlier, Red Shirt leaders had tearfully announced the end of their protest movement in front of a large crowd of emotional supporters, including many women and children.

"We are ending the protests here," said Mr Nattawut from the main protest stage.

"I know this is unacceptable to some of you and some of you do not want to hear but we cannot stand against this cruelty.

"We will exchange our freedom with your safety. We have tried our best."

"I know that you are suffering. Some of us are speechless. But we want to stop any more deaths here," said Jatuporn Prompan.

"I know that if the military comes here many of you will sacrifice your lives and we cannot stand to see that."

Military storms protest camp

Not long after dawn, soldiers and armoured vehicles had moved up to barricades the Red Shirt protesters had established around their camp, where they have been living for weeks.

The military broadcast warnings that an operation was imminent and urged protesters to leave.

Shortly afterwards, armoured personnel carriers breached one of the main road blocks - which had been set alight by Red Shirts - and pushed inside the protest camp.

Troops fired tear gas and automatic rifles at the protesters and the Red Shirts' militia returned fire.

Police and hospital officials said an Italian journalist was among those killed.

Thousands of protesters refused to leave their sprawling camp in the city centre, even as troops entered the protest zone.

Many protesters, particularly women, children and the elderly, took refuge in a local temple in the middle of the so-called red zone. Others gathered around the main protest stage for safety.

The Red Shirts, who are loyal to exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, say the government is illegitimate and want immediate elections.

Yesterday the Red Shirts said they would accept an offer of mediation from the speaker of the senate, after their call for United Nations mediation was rejected by the government.

However last night the government also rejected the senate mediation offer and said it would not negotiate until the Red Shirts ended their demonstration.

An adviser to the prime minister said the government was still willing to talk to Red Shirts if they called off their protest.

Meanwhile Mr Thaksin, who was ousted by the Thai army in 2006, said he feared a crackdown on the Red Shirts could lead to guerrilla warfare.

He told Reuters he was concerned the military operation in Bangkok would spread resentment among the Red Shirts, which could push them towards guerrilla-style tactics.


0 Replies
Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 03:07 am
Live coverage from the BBC (including video update.:

BBC Live event: Unrest in Bangkok
Tank drives over barricades in Bangkok, Thailand (19 May 2010)

Welcome to our live coverage of events in Bangkok, as troops and anti-government red-shirts clash following months of protests.

Refresh this page to see the latest developments with breaking news and comment, your e-mails and Tweets and insights from BBC correspondents.

All times are BST.

0 Replies
Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 04:50 am
Despite widespread media reports (like this article) suggesting that the conflict is over, there have been other reports (on ABC television tonight), indicating that some of the red shirts have moved on to other parts of Bangkok & are continuing to fight. There are reports that unrest in spreading, including an attack on the stock exchange & also a big department store in Bangkok. Yet more reports of unrest in the rural north of Thailand ("home territory" of the red shirts), like a town hall being set alight, amongst other disturbances. So despite the red shirts' leaders having surrendered, it's looking like others are continuing to fight:

Red Shirts surrender after deadly crackdown
By Matt Brown and agencies
Updated 1 hour 11 minutes ago
ABC News online

Red Shirt anti-government protestors are detained by soldiers inside their camp in Bangkok. (AFP: Manan Vatsyayana )

Anti-government protest leaders have surrendered at police headquarters in Bangkok after a deadly military offensive to end long-running demonstrations, but violence continues to rock other areas of the capital and wider Thailand.

Bangkok police said at least five people were killed and more than 50 injured as the Thai military cracked down on a protest camp in the city's centre.

The army says it has halted its operation against the Red Shirts and the situation at the camp is under control, ending a six-week stand-off which has paralysed parts of Bangkok.

At least four Red Shirt leaders turned themselves in and asked thousands of supporters in the camp to leave.

"I ask everyone to go home," said senior Red Shirt figure Nattawut Saikuar in a television interview from the National Police Office, where he was in custody.

"There will be police guarding the road and providing security for you. I hope that you return home safely." ...<cont>

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Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 05:30 am
Excellent article from the BBC outlining the historical background to the red shirts' struggles on the streets of Bangkok:

How did Thailand come to this?
Page last updated at 7:27 GMT, Wednesday, 19 May 2010 8:27 UK
By Vaudine England BBC News, Bangkok

Armoured car drives over barricade in Bangkok on 19 May 2010 Troops used armoured vehicles to smash through the protest barricades

Three months ago, Bangkok appeared to be a successful South East Asian capital city - now government troops and anti-government protesters are fighting in the streets. The BBC's Vaudine England considers how it came to this.

Huge and thriving, Bangkok has long been seen - and seen itself - as a great city. But now there is blood on the streets.

It is hard to imagine how Thailand got to this - and how it will manage to recover.

One explanation is simply that a crazed rabble of poor people came to the city from the under-developed north, flouting their love for a former prime minister - Thaksin Shinawatra - and being paid to do so.

Another vision talks of class war and a peoples' uprising, as the masses rise up on the barricades in a re-make of Les Miserables, the musical about the French Revolution.

The reality lies somewhere in between and can only be understood by a brisk walk through Thailand's recent political history.

It is easy to speak of the 18 new constitutions in the past half-century, and the many coups. It is hard for people living in more settled countries to imagine that level of uncertainty about the basic rules of the political game.

Whatever version of the recent past is chosen, neither violence nor a death-defying commitment to democracy is unusual in Thai politics

Absolute monarchy only gave way to constitutional rule in 1932 and the play of power between the old feudal system, the military and various democratic forces has been fought out ever since, often with fatal consequences.

Certain big dates stand out: 1973, 1976, 1992, 2006 and now 2010.

Thailand's overwhelming image as a Land of Smiles - as a fantasy land of sun, sea, sex and surgery - has been carefully crafted.

It has seduced many, outsiders and Thais, into believing a facade of stability where there was perhaps more a papering over the cracks.

That paper is now badly torn. Deep-seated fissures, long in existence, can no longer be ignored.

If nothing else, commentators agree, the red-shirts have achieved that much.

Bloody history

Thailand lived under variations of military rule most of the time since the 1932 constitution, during World War II, into the 1970s.

On 14 October 1973, more than 70 protesters were killed and 800 were injured when troops opened fire on huge demonstrations held in support of pro-democracy students.

The then military government collapsed; a new constitution and new elections in six months followed.

On 26 September 1976, two students were garrotted and hanged, allegedly by police. Thousands of students gathered in their support and against military rule.

Two weeks later, on 6 October, that tension exploded into the killing by soldiers, police and right-wing mobs of at least 46 people. Students said many more died.

This moment marked the end of a democratic period, and caused parts of a generation to flee to the hills, joining a communist movement which was later decimated. ...<cont>

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Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 06:19 am
It sounds like things are turning rather ugly now .. :


Fire and blood on the streets of Bangkok

By Matt Brown and agencies/ABC news online
Updated 12 minutes ago

Thai fire authorities say arsonists have set 20 locations ablaze in Bangkok. (AFP)

Violent anarchy is taking the place of organised demonstrations on the streets of Bangkok after anti-government protest leaders surrendered to authorities.

Fire authorities say blazes are burning at 20 locations across the city, including a TV station where more than 100 people are trapped.

TV Station Channel 3's editor Samran Chatto says a fire is burning on the sixth floor of the building and staff are trapped inside.

"We are in a crisis situation now. Some 100 of our staff are trapped inside. The fire has engulfed the sixth floor." Mr Samran told AFP, adding authorities were trying to rescue the staff.

A shopping mall in Bangkok - one of the largest in Asia - has reportedly been completely destroyed by fire and the Thai stock exchange is also burning.

Earlier today, four leaders of the Red Shirt protesters gave themselves up to police and urged protesters to go home after a military offensive left at least five people dead and more than 50 injured.

The Thai army cracked down on a sprawling protest camp in the city's centre, seemingly ending a six-week stand-off which has paralysed parts of Bangkok.

The military says it has halted its operation against the Red Shirts and the situation at the camp is under control.

But at least one break-away group of Red Shirts says they are not giving up and they will continue to fight.

They have warned they will target both Thai and foreign journalists.

There has been rioting in five areas of the city, and protesters are setting fires and burning tyres.

Some hotels have set up wooden barricades.

The country's defence minister says a curfew will be imposed from 8:00pm (local time) in the city to help restore order.

Foreign tourists and Thai travellers will be allowed to travel to Bangkok airports despite the curfew.

Violence has also spread to north-east Thailand, a Red Shirt stronghold, where protesters have stormed town halls and set buildings ablaze in the city of Udon Thani and the town of Khon Kaen. ...<cont>

0 Replies
Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 02:58 pm
Analysis from the Guardian (UK):

Thai protests: military crackdown only widens divide
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 19 May 2010 13.33 BST

By opting to use military force against the redshirt protesters, the Thai government has lost the opportunity to craft a settlement for an orderly transition, writes Duncan McCargo

Redshirts are detained by soldiers inside their camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Illustration: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images

Clearing demonstrators from the streets using military force is messy enough, but in a major political conflict like Thailand's, the sweeping-out operation is really the easy part.

Despite almost reaching a negotiated settlement with the protesters last week, the Thai authorities have ordered security forces to overrun the main redshirt encampments in central Bangkok, arresting major leaders and apparently shooting dead at least four people, including an Italian journalist, in a continuation of ham-fisted military tactics already condemned by Amnesty International.

The decision to use force against redshirt protesters was immediately applauded by government supporters - including many long-suffering Bangkok residents - but the costs of such a heavy-handed crackdown will be extremely high.

By opting for a military rather than a security solution, the government has lost the opportunity to craft a settlement for an orderly transition. A roadmap based on a plan for early elections in November had offered a possible way forward, and intermediaries, including the senate speaker and activist academics, had sought to broker further dialogue between the two sides. The UN also made a couple of overtures of assistance, which were immediately rebuffed by the government.

Following the death on Monday of renegade general Khattiya Sawasdipol, better known as Sae Daeng, of wounds inflicted by a sniper, the redshirts had lost their most hardline opponent of compromise.

Sae Daeng and his contingent of men, serving as a self-appointed security detail for the redshirts, had been a key factor in resisting earlier attempts to disperse the protests. The government now had the upper hand in any talks, and the demonstrations were probably within a few days of collapse.

The authorities' show of force today inflamed intense feelings of frustration, resentment and rage among the protesters, who had camped out for more than two months in 90F (32C) temperatures. Bangkok today is an angry city of impossible contradictions and unfathomable hatreds.

The end of the formal protests solves nothing; indeed, it seems to be ushering in a new and even more disturbing phase of random violence and mayhem. The deep-rooted tension between pro- and anti-Thaksin networks have not gone away.

These conflicts date back several years, reflecting a basic divide between two competing colour-coded patronage-based networks. The redshirts are broadly allied with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They remain incensed that he was ousted in the disastrous September 2006 military coup which did nothing to dent his electoral support, especially in the populous north and north-east.

Opposing them are the yellowshirts, who are a royalist movement sympathetic to the present Democrat Party-led administration, the military and the bureaucracy. For them, Thaksin represents the dark side of Thai capitalism, seeking cynically to subvert the country's traditional institutions and values for his own advancement and advantage.

The divide between the two sides transcends social class and regional origin, splitting families and households across the nation.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the issues " and the popular image of the redshirts as non-violent pro-democracy underdogs is woefully simplistic " normalcy will not be restored in Thailand until a genuine accommodation is reached between the two sides. Such an accommodation might take the form of a political deal, a power-sharing arrangement, or some kind of substantial decentralisation. Elections are needed, sooner rather than later, as part of this process.

Nobody should be fooled into thinking that this conflict is over. Whether the fires are quickly extinguished or continue to burn for many nights to come will depend on the willingness of the Thai authorities to act pragmatically, and to listen to voices of reason.

• Duncan McCargo is professor of south-east Asian politics at the University of Leeds and author of Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand (Cornell University Press), which won the inaugural 2009 Bernard Schwartz prize from the Asia Society

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Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 03:11 am
The last BBC report (including video update.) :

Thailand curfew extended to three more nights
Page last updated at 8:16 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 9:16 UK

The BBC's Chris Hogg: "The Thai government is still far from controlling every district of this city"

Thai authorities have extended a curfew in Bangkok for three more nights, following Wednesday's deadly army assault on anti-government protesters.

The curfew will also be in place in 23 provinces, officials say

Bangkok remains tense after its first night under curfew and shots were heard early on Thursday near a temple where many protesters had sought shelter.

Some 27 buildings were set ablaze on Wednesday after protest leaders had surrendered.

Pockets of resistance still reportedly remain.

Some 40 people have died since troops surrounded the protesters last week, with at least 14 more deaths on Wednesday.

'Preventing violence'

The next curfew will begin at 2100 local time (1400 GMT) on Thursday, army spokesman Dittaporn Sasasmith said.

It will run until 0500 the following day (2200 GMT Thursday) and the times will be repeated for the next two nights. ... <cont>

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