Red Shirt Endgame? More Bloodshed in Bangkok

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Endgame? More Bloodshed in Bangkok

I’ve arrived back in Bangkok, just in time for the final showdown. When I left the city a week ago, it seemed that the red shirts and the Thai government were close to a peaceful compromise. Apparently, those negotiations have broken down and now things will be settled with guns, grenades, and makeshift weapons.


The red shirts have been occupying a large section of Bangkok’s business district for weeks now and have set up barricades of tires, razor wire, and sharpened bamboo stakes. Bangkok’s main public transport, the BTS Skytrain, runs through the middle of their camp and has been shut down today, crippling the city. Fancy malls and five-star hotels in the area have been closed for weeks, increasing the pressure on the Prime Minister to end the occupation.

A key red shirt figure, General Khattiya, was shot in the head by a sniper while giving a TV interview.

I rolled into the Khao San Road area yesterday (well away from the protest area), got a room at my favorite hotel, and sat down to catch up on the news. While I had been on the bus, a key red shirt figure, General Khattiya, had been shot in the head — felled by a sniper’s bullet while giving a TV interview behind the barricades. He’s in a coma now, and in critical condition after undergoing brain surgery.

The army, of course, denies any involvement — claiming that it is only firing live ammunition in self defense. Khattiya, or Seh Daeng (Red General) as he’s popularly known, is considered one of the more “hardcore” leaders and was in charge of the movement’s security forces, the paramilitary “Black Shirts”. I think all hopes of a peaceful end to this mess fell with him.

The army has cordoned off the entire downtown district, an area of over four square kilometers, and has shut off power and water.

The army has cordoned off the entire downtown district, an area of over four square kilometers, and has shut off power and water to the area. (map) The Reds continue to reinforce their barricades and are stocking up on water and supplies.

At this point, most of the more moderate supporters have headed home and the ones still here seem ready to fight until the end. Red leader Kwanchai was quoted today as saying: “We will surrender in the next life.”

Though they haven’t really begun to push into the camp, fights have broken out on nearby streets. Prior to Seh Daeng’s shooting, things had been fairly calm. Red shirts are armed mostly with rocks, Molotov cocktails, and slingshots — though some do have guns and there are reports of grenade attacks, as well. The Army has shotguns with rubber bullets, M-16s, and tear gas.

As of this morning, there were at least 17 dead and well over 100 wounded.

As of this morning, there were at least 17 dead –16 of them red shirts– and well over 100 wounded. Three journalists have been shot and hospitalized — one Canadian and two Thais. Reds captured a police bus during the night and set it afire. YouTube videos are surfacing of some of the fights and it’s pretty obvious that the troops are firing directly at civilians with live ammo. It’s also obvious that at least some of the red shirts are firing back.

The army is expected to begin its push into the red shirt stronghold either today or tomorrow. I suspect things will get very ugly when they do.

And, Bangkok itself? In many parts of town, it just keeps rolling along — you can go shopping, have dinner, and enjoy a night out, all without the slightest hint of what is happening in the heart of the city. But with so much of the city shut down and inaccessible, the mood around town is somber and subdued. Many people woke to the sounds of gunfire and explosions this morning and are glued to their televisions, watching for updates, and hoping for the best. In three or four hot spots, there are running battles with dead bodies lying in the street. Right now, the Land of Smiles is looking pretty grim.



Note: the mainstream media cannot keep up with a story as fluid as this. If you’re interested in keeping up with events as they happen, try searching Twitter for #bangkok or #redshirts. Kevin Revolinski has a great Twitter list that I highly recommend for up-to-the-minute updates.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria Staal May 15, 2010 at 9:02 pm

I didn’t realise you were coming back to Bangkok. Must be weird knowing that there is a war going on in one part, while in another part life goes on as relatively normal.
Take care.
.-= Maria Staal´s last blog ..How Hard Can It Be To Find A Waffle Iron Expert? =-.

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wes May 16, 2010 at 7:49 am

Yeah, it’s bizarre. On Khao San Road, tourists were shopping and drinking beer like nothing was happening…

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Rich May 16, 2010 at 6:53 am

Alright man, time for you to get the hell out of there. Quit worrying Maria! Seriously though, keep your head down!

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wes May 16, 2010 at 7:50 am

I’m only here to catch a flight to Cambodia. Leave today at 3pm, so it’s all good. Thanks ;)

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Candice May 17, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Crap, last I heard, things were being settled. Had no idea it was all flaring up again. Stay safe!
.-= Candice´s last blog ..The Best Dive Pub Ever Found, the Inn of Olde =-.

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wes May 18, 2010 at 8:48 am

yeah, it’s crazy. one minute it looks like they’ll work it out, then all hell breaks loose.

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