Bangkok Burning & The Red Shirt Road Show

Fires in Bangkok

Picture Courtesy of AP

The government made good on their promise to tear down the protest barricades and level the small city that housed the Red Shirt protesters in the middle of Bangkok. The area was devoid of protesters as they rolled over barricades with their armored personnel carriers and started knocking down the temporary structures that protesters had built. Random gunfire could be heard as the Thai army entered the red zone and went about their work.

With many of the UDD leaders surrendering to police on Wednesday the mass of protesters scattered throughout the city damaging many buildings and starting at least 27 fires. Word of the UDD leaders surrender spread to the North Eastern areas of Thailand where more protests and rallies have turned violent and in at least in one case deadly. In Ubon Ratchathani protesters burned tires at the provincial city hall and reportedly destroyed the building before clashing with authorities which resulted in the death of 2 protesters and the wounding of 5 more. While in Khon Kaen protesters reportedly destroyed public property including a branch of the Bangkok Bank after hearing about the UDD leaders surrendering.

In Bangkok fires could be seen raging from Victory monument to the now demolished Red zone. Reports say that Thailand’s largest mall, Central World, was engulfed in flames on many floors with part of the building collapsing. Into Wednesday evening more fires were started at Century Park Hotel and at Center One shopping mall with many reports of looting going on.

The government also issued arrest warrants for missing Red Shirt leaders and apparently they will be issuing an arrest warrant for Thaksin Shinawatra as well, although he is safely pulling strings from outside the country. The Thai government will be enforcing a curfew in Bangkok and the 20 provinces under state of emergency, the first since 1992 violence, that will begin at 8pm and end at 6am.

In Chiang Mai protesters came out in force,  ignoring the curfew, to set tires ablaze and attack several branches of Bangkok Bank. With the mass of protesters basically leaderless I have a feeling that this urban warfare will be going on for some time. With small pockets of protesters roaming around Bangkok destroying what they can. Many provinces will now become battle zones too with the Red shirts left angry and disillusioned.

Now would be a good time for the  King to make a statement deploring the Thai on Thai violence as he did in 92. All involved then listened and stopped when the King spoke. While it’s doubtful that this will happen one can always hope;  this would go a long way in stopping the violence and saving lives.

Update: I just got off the phone with my girl Pookie in Mukdahan. She said today there were 2 bomb blasts and at least two protesters were killed in Mukdahan. She also said that there were large gatherings of armed protesters. I would have thought they would just go to Nakhon Phanome as it is a much bigger city but apparently Mukdahan is the hot spot with many protests happening in Nakhon Phanom as well. Tomorrow there is a big rally planned for Nakhon phanome and I have a feeling  it won’t be pretty.

Pattaya and Jomtien are also reported to be under the curfew with all bars and nightspots closing. No violence going on there but safety measure just to make sure nothing does happen I guess.

Below are videos of the days events in Bangkok and the North East:


More Great Thailand Tales:

21 Responses to Bangkok Burning & The Red Shirt Road Show
  1. nick
    May 20, 2010 | 10:07 am

    the red shirts know who is the current deputy PM and foreign minister.

  2. Mike
    May 20, 2010 | 12:33 pm

    Hi Talen, sad news and I fancy things will get worse before better, particularly in the Northern provinces.

    Martyn(BTMJ) was due to leave UT yesterday for the UK, spoke to him earlier in the day and he said things were quiet-not sure it stayed that way.

    Here in PKK life as normal.

    BTW the curfew officially covered 23 provinces including BKK and has been extended to Saturday. Thai government making some announcements in English.

    • Talen
      May 21, 2010 | 1:42 am

      Mike, I have no doubt you are right….Speaking to Pookie in Mukdahan I can’t believe there have been bomb blasts there as it’s only a small town but very red to the core.

  3. Thai Connoisseur
    May 20, 2010 | 4:04 pm

    Gut wrenching day yesterday. Best wishes to all my Thai friends and good luck in the difficult times which undoubtedly lie ahead.

  4. Catherine
    May 20, 2010 | 8:58 pm

    Hi Talen. I’m in a bit of a xxx still.

    Your first video was taken from my area and it’s the first one I’ve seen so far. I’m thinking that it’s from a condo behind and above me.

    This morning I scared the what’s it out of myself by going on the roof to take photos of the fire in Din Daeng.

    While there, it hit me that snipers were still around. Now, I’m safe, I know that. But it didn’t stop me from shaking all the way back to my condo.

    But before I did, I got my photos.

    Here’s cheers to all journos and photographers in the real action (not hiding like I’ve been).

    They are heros. All.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Jaideetv: From Thailand to the World =-.

    • Talen
      May 21, 2010 | 1:41 am

      Cat, Be very careful as bullets don’t have names on them and can’t distinguish between Thai and falang…

  5. Maaba
    May 20, 2010 | 9:12 pm

    When the pro-government elite movement, People’s Alliance for Democracy, held disruptive rallies, invaded government buildings, and illegally occupied Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport in 2008, there was not one single arrest, trial or conviction. Instead, these same people are on television every day. In comparison, scores of Red Shirts have already been imprisoned, and those arrested in the most recent protests were processed and convicted in improbably swift trials.

  6. Maaba
    May 20, 2010 | 9:14 pm

    The movement of Red Shirts was founded shortly after the 2006 coup that removed Thaksin from office following his second landslide election victory. The first campaign of the Red Shirts was focused on defending the 1997 people’s constitution – the first in Thailand’s history that was drafted in a popular, democratic manner with participation of elected officials from all the regions – against the imposition of the new 2007 constitution, drafted by handpicked people appointed by the military junta.

    The grassroots growth of the Red Shirts rapidly increased the size and influence of the group following a series of repressive actions by the government. The country’s most popular political party, Thai Rak Thai, was banned by a court ruling in 2007. The elected prime minister Samak Sundaravej was ousted from office for appearing on a cooking show. The People’s Power Party, successor to Thai Rak Thai, was then also banned in 2008, and more than 100 democratically elected members of parliament were disqualified from politics for five years.

    The understandable anger felt by many Thai citizens after seeing their popular will suppressed was underscored by systemic double standards exercised by the country’s judicial system. One constitutional court judge who banned Samak also regularly did paid appearances on radio and taught at a private university.

    When the pro-government elite movement, People’s Alliance for Democracy, held disruptive rallies, invaded government buildings, and illegally occupied Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport in 2008, there was not one single arrest, trial or conviction. Instead, these same people are on television every day. In comparison, scores of Red Shirts have already been imprisoned, and those arrested in the most recent protests were processed and convicted in improbably swift trials.

    It was all the more impressive that tens of thousands of these activists volunteered to sleep outside at the rally site in obvious discomfort, while risking their lives before the coming violence to make their point. They came to Bangkok to remind the ruling elites and the world that they also have constitutional rights as Thai citizens, that their votes should count too, no matter their level of wealth, class, and education.

    But the distractions from these basic facts are numerous. The ruling military elite argues that the killing of almost 70 civilians (only one confirmed death of a military officer) over the past month is justified because they are armed – although most often with slingshots, homemade fireworks and bamboo sticks. The ruling military elite talks about the funding of the Red Shirts, as though these people are risking their lives for some reason other than the anger over having their votes stolen.

    The unlawful deployment of force used by the Thai authorities against the protesters, their flip-flopping on the issues of elections and their unwillingness to meet the protesters’ pleadings for negotiations to avoid violence speaks volumes about their legitimacy to govern.

    But the facts speak for themselves, and the demands by the Red Shirts for new elections and real representative government must be dealt with in a sincere and orderly reconciliation effort.

    Above all, the Red Shirts simply want the right to vote, have a say in who runs the country and how.

    • Talen
      May 21, 2010 | 1:40 am

      Maaba, While I agree that the Red shirts have just cause to air their grievances and their should be new elections there is still one part of the puzzle being left out.

      The whole movement is being funded by Thaksin who is using the rural poor as leverage to get back into the country and Thai politics. While he did do right by the rural poor he also was selling off Thailand wholesale and pocketing the money. He was a crooked politician in a sea of crooked politicians and he is still hard at work.

  7. Martyn
    May 21, 2010 | 10:14 am

    Talen referring to Mike’s comment about Udon Thani, just after I finished talking to Mike on the phone everything kicked off in the city.

    Two government buildings got torched and when I left that night to get the coach to Suvarnabhumi airport there were still plenty of people out on the streets after the 8 pm curfew. My guess was there’d be big trouble that night.

    I have to agree with Maaba on most of his points. His views echo those of many Isaan people.
    .-= Martyn´s last blog ..On the Scene – Udon Thani Burning =-.

    • Talen
      May 21, 2010 | 10:39 am

      Martyn, I’ve been talking to Pookie the last few days and Mukdahan and Nakhon Phanom are the same….large groups or armed red shirts and apparently some bomb blasts.

      Last night she told me she can’t wait for me to get there because she wants to take me out to go play Red shirts :O

      While Maaba makes a few good points the facts belie many as well. The fact remains there could have been peace and elections come November but the Red Leaders decided they didn’t really want that. They added conditions that they knew would not be accepted. What is happening now is fully on their shoulders as well as Thaksin’s.

  8. Martyn
    May 21, 2010 | 10:14 pm

    Talen I think your last point is the absolute sticking point of the whole sad events and one which could have saved many lives. The red shirts were given an election date but they wanted more conditions. Under extreme pressure Mr Abhisit was told ‘no way’ and that’s when the army was ordered to move in. Thaksin miscalculated big time and the UDD suffered for it and sadly the country is now split wide apart.

    I expect the coming months to see similar events to those that have occurred in the south of Thailand over the past few years but hopefully without targeted human hits. Expect a few big banks to be blown out of Isaan’s water in the coming months. I hope I’m wrong but that’s the feel I got from my time spent in the north east of Thailand these last few weeks.
    .-= Martyn´s last blog ..On the Scene – Udon Thani Burning =-.

    • Talen
      May 21, 2010 | 11:36 pm

      Martyn, I think you are spot on in your assessment.

      When I talked to Pookie last night some of the things she told me about whats happening in Mukdahan alone really bothered me not to mention what people that I know there have been up to.

      Hopefuly the PM revisits the elections in November because I think that will go a long way in calming the situation but I have a feeling that since the government has shown force that things will remain as they are.

  9. Lloyd
    May 22, 2010 | 4:09 am

    Why people keep bringing Thaksin into the equation I just cannot understand, there is no proof at all that Thaksin has had any control over the actions of the protest leaders, in fact thay have acted in such a manner that it has made it even harder for Thaksin or his family to gain any power or social status within Thailand.
    .-= Lloyd´s last blog ..Ayutthaya =-.

    • Talen
      May 22, 2010 | 7:03 am

      Lloyd, Thaksin has had weekly call ins and video conferences with the UDD leaders since last year. When he last visited Cambodia several leaders crossed the border to meet with him as well.

      There is no doubt he has been funneling money to the cause and before the UDD had their initial sit down with the government several UDD leaders made statements suggesting that they would have to check in with Thaksin before they would agree to anything.

      Thaksin keeps being brought into the equation because he keeps implanting himself there.

  10. Catherine
    May 22, 2010 | 8:36 am

    After saturating myself with the news as it happens, I sort of need a break. I just cannot take a concentration of anything – it’s a part of my nature – but especially not when it’s so overwhelming.

    So next week I’m going to back off and… dunno… write about nesting birds or something equally tame.

    Btw – At the request of Bernd, I’ve closed the comments to his Eye-witness Ratchaprasong posts. A verbal barrage started between the different political factions and that was not what he wanted.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Update 2: Expat’s Eye-witness Report: Ratchaprasong =-.

    • Talen
      May 22, 2010 | 8:47 am

      Cat I wondered about that as I was about to comment on that post but couldn’t.

      I think we all need a break from the madness and I plan to write some light pieces next week myself.

  11. Catherine
    May 22, 2010 | 9:03 am

    I guess I should put a note on his posts so’s not to confuse.

    Here’s to next week sans madness… I believe you’ll enjoy my Monday post as I’ll be talking about sin.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Update 2: Expat’s Eye-witness Report: Ratchaprasong =-.

    • Talen
      May 22, 2010 | 9:47 am

      A post about sin huh…let me know if you need pictures to accompany it :P

  12. Jrak
    May 28, 2010 | 7:34 pm

    Join us for revelant discussions at ‘Anti-Red Shirt International’ Facebook Group. We are open to public.