Thailand in the News Week Ending 5/15/10

The Battle for Bangkok

Protesters Fire on Troops in Bangkok

Pictures Courtesy Reuters

With at least 29 confirmed dead and over 200 injured since Thursday night the  the battle for Bangkok continues. The government has sent 35,000 troops to the protest zone with instructions to use live fire on any protester attacking or advancing on them and coming within 30 meters. The military has blocked off access to the protest zone while the protesters have lit tires on fire around their barricades and fired upon troops with fireworks and small arms.

For a glimpse of the Red Zone and an expats eye view of living within the Red Zone please see Catherine Wentworth’s article Expat’s Eye-witness Report: Ratchaprasong Resort at Women Learn Thai.

For their part the Red Shirts are calling again for the U.N. to intervene in the 2 month long standoff and mediate negotiations with the Government. What could have easily ended peacefully last week with the acceptance of the Prime Ministers 5 point plan to bring peace back to the troubled political scene of the country instead led into a bloody weekend Because certain Red shirt leaders refused to accept the government plan. Instead the UDD set forth their own plan for peace which called for the Deputy Prime Minister being taken into custody and brought up on charges for the bloody April 10th clashes.

The Prime Minister rescinded the governments 5 point plan Thursday and insisted that this crackdown will continue. He also stated that the military is not targeting civilians but armed terrorists among the demonstrators. Water and power have been cut to the protest zone as well as the surrounding neighborhoods sporadically. Many living in the area are finding it hard to get out for medical attention or regular daily activities such as food shopping for fear of what may happen. At least one innocent civilian was gunned down on a balcony  while looking into the affected area.

While the U.S. and U.K. embassies remain closed until at least Tuesday the U.S. embassy has authorized the family members of embassy employees to be evacuated if they so choose at the governments expense.  The Australian embassy as well as the U.N. offices in Bangkok are also closed at this time and for the foreseeable future.

Oddly enough Thailand became a member of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council this past week much to the consternation of many U.N. members. The Red shirts have used this bit of news and timing to hand deliver a petition to the U.N. this morning calling for the UN to pressure Thai government to cease all the hostility and violent actions toward the protesters and to denounce the usage of heavy weaponry to suppress unarmed protesters. The petition calls for an investigation into the April 10th clashes and also suggested that since Thailand has become a member of the UN Human Rights Council the Thai government must allow the Special Commissioner from U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) to investigate Human Rights violation issues.

The CRES (Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation) for their part in the crackdown of the protests have declared a State of Emergency in 5 more provinces bringing the count to 20 provinces in total now. The new provinces added to the list are Sakon Nakhon, Ubon Ratchathani, Nongbua Lamphu, Maha Sarakham and Roi Et. As can bee seen in the below videos many rallies are starting to take place in the rural provinces in support of the Red shirt protests in Bangkok. The CRES has also taken steps to freeze 106 bank accounts as a measure to cut support for the Red shirt protests. Those accounts include those of Red Shirt protest leaders and former Thai Rak Thai executives. The accounts of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and his family and Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdiphol were also frozen.

We can only hope that this comes to a peaceful conclusion soon for the sake of innocent citizens caught in the crossfire and for the sake of Thailand. Until this comes to a conclusion it is recommended that you stay clear of Bangkok.

Unrest in Ubon as the faithful rally for the Red Shirts.


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8 Responses to Thailand in the News Week Ending 5/15/10
  1. Catherine
    May 17, 2010 | 10:10 am

    Talen. Thank you for mentioning Bernd’s experiences in the live fire zone.

    It is absolutely crazy-making in Bangkok at the moment. I tried listening to both sides screaming about who is right and who is wrong, but my head threatened to explode.

    But instead of all this shouting, shooting, and posturing at each other, they should talk. Yeah, talk.

    Because right now, it is pretty much impossible to hear everyone through all of the noise.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Update: Expat’s Eye-witness Report: Ratchaprasong Resort =-.

  2. Talen
    May 17, 2010 | 10:25 am

    Cat, Talking will definitely save lives but it seems they can’t even sit down with the fundamental objective of peace.

    Most of the Red leadership were fine with the governments peace plan but the standouts wanted whats happening now to draw more attention to their cause.

    Hopefully cooler heads prevail before more people die.

  3. Catherine
    May 17, 2010 | 10:32 am

    From twitter: Weng is worried that the Reds on the street are out of control. Thai soldiers are also out of control. Kwanchai is angry because the government has frozen his assets. And Sae Deang passed away an hour ago, at 9.20…

    But I just now read on twitter that Veera is supposed to be in talks with the Thai government. Rumoured that the talks are going well.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Update: Expat’s Eye-witness Report: Ratchaprasong Resort =-.

  4. Talen
    May 17, 2010 | 10:45 am

    Cat, I have a feeling that Seh Daeng’s passing is going to up the anti on the protest side.

    The one thing That I think could end this fast is if the King makes a statement like he did in 92 chastising both sides and calling for peace.

  5. Catherine
    May 17, 2010 | 10:52 am

    I feel the same, but is it too late? Has he waited too long?

    The word from the palace/government is that he will not be pulled into politics. So I’m not going to hold my breath.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Update: Expat’s Eye-witness Report: Ratchaprasong Resort =-.

  6. Mike
    May 18, 2010 | 12:43 pm

    Talen I don’t think you will find any intervention from a high establishment given the behind the scenes backing of the coup from that direction and the subsequent yellow governments.

    I really feel like Thailand is on the brink. Ineffective poorly trained security forces unable or unwilling to intervene in something that could have been nipped in the bud weeks ago. I read a great blog post yesterday on how the LA riots were sorted (far more widespread and violent than BKK)by the use of properly trained SF who used appropriate and measured force.

    I know that all of the above is a matter for Thailand however as a foreign resident I can’t help but feel let down by the apparent ineptness of the powers that be.

    Thailand is a fledgling Democracy that is finding out the hard way what that word really means.

    To use a football analogy(taken on a World stage) I get the feeling that Thailand is really a third division club that got promoted to a higher league too soon and now they cannot cope and face relegation. Perhaps this would have been different if successive governments made an effort to get all the players on side.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park =-.

  7. Talen
    May 20, 2010 | 8:38 am

    Mike, The LA riots weren’t without their problems either. The police initially abandoned the city for a few days and if it weren’t for concerned citizens a lot of people would have died.

    I agree with the football analogy…it seems the same situation keeps repeating itself and instead of learning new behaviors it just reverts to violence.

    May 20, 2010 | 11:08 pm

    Widespread conflict in Thailand, would this travel warning?…

    The conflict spread to Thailand’s rural northeast, where the four governor’s offices were burned and about 13 000 anti-government protesters demonstrated. Red Shirt protesters in the area ignored the emergency laws imposed in 23 provinces a…