With 4 updates: State of emergency declared

7 04 2010

The Nation reports that “Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva conceded the enforcement of Internal Security Act (ISA) had failed to deter the protests by the red shirts.” He therefore “deemed it necessary to invoke the emergency decree over Bangkok” and surrounding provinces. Abhisit said: “”We want to facilitate other actions to restore peace and order. The actions will be in accordance with the law and international standard…”. He promised the enforcement of laws, “including the legal proceedings against red shirts leaders.”

This followed a day of actions from both the red shirts and the government. The government announced plans to close the red shirt television station and, led by firebrand Arisman Pongruangrong, more than 1,000 red shirts entered parliament’s compound after two fire bombs were allegedly aimed at protesters. Arisman reportedly entered the parliament building with 20 supporters. They stayed only a short time.

Abhisit, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, PM’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey, and acting spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn climbed over the ladder into Vimarn Mek palace, boarded a helicopter and went to “the government’s commanding center inside the 11 th Infantry Regiment.” Abhisit reportedly left “his cabinet and other MPs inside the Parliament.”

Meanwhile, “Deputy House Speaker Apiwan Ariyachai took the stage of the red shirts and told the cheering protesters that a senior army officer told him by telephone several times that the armed forces would withdraw supports for Abhisit and his government.” This raises a very interesting question as Army chief General Anupong Paojinda has refused to use troops against protesters while they remain peaceful. Recall that open rebellion by this same army leader brought down the government of Somchai Wongsawat when he refused to move against PAD protesters occupying the airport in late 2008.

Update 1: The “fire bombs” noted above may have been CS gas canisters. BusinessWeek has an update. The government states that it will take legal action against the red shirts who entered the parliament compound. Metropolitan Police chief Santhan Chayanont said “a pistol and an M16 rifle seized by the red shirts at the parliament were in the possession of Pvt Chalothorn Kimso, a military policeman, who was the driver of a car leading Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban’s motorcade. He said Pvt Chalothorn, was questioned about it and said he was shocked seeing the red-shirts storming into parliament. He took the weapons out of the car to find a place to store them. But, during the melee, the weapons were snatched from his hand. Pvt Chalothorn had filed a complaint with Dusit police, Pol Lt-Gen Santhan said.”

Pol Lt-Gen Santhan also “said he was informed by Pol Maj-Gen Phakapong Pongpetra, a crowd control commander, that the [gas] canisters were snatched from their bindings on the chests of police on guard duty by the red-shirts rushing into the parliament compound. The canisters were then thrown into the crowd of protesters.  This led to wrongful claims the government forces had tried to bomb the protesters.  Pol Lt-Gen Santhan said what happened would be further investigated. However, police had been told not to use tear gas against the protesters unless they were first given permission. This permission could be given only by the government’s Centre for Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO).” There’s confusion on this as the red shirts talk of “two tear gas shells found at the Ratchaprasong rally site.”

Meanwhile, Abhisit mentioned that the state of emergency was a direct result of the “red shirts of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) broke into the parliamentary compound, forcing cabinet members, including himself, and MPs attending a House meeting to flee for safety.”

Photos at the Bangkok Post show red shirts climbing the gate into what appears to be the parliament compound and opening it for their comrades. There seem no security forces involved until later photos. None of the photos have labels. They also show the grabbing of the M16. More photos here of Suthep and an armed guard – some suggest a Democrat Party MP – in parliament.

Update 2: For background on the decree on state of emergency, see Bangkok Pundit’s important post. The Irrawaddy notes that “[m]any Thai columnists and editorials on Wednesday questioned whether Abhisit was losing the weeks-old confrontation with the protesters and the crucial backing of the military and police. At least four former prime ministers planned to step into the fray in an attempt to negotiate an end to the crisis, state media reports said.” Well-known royalist and former head of the National Security Council Prasong Soonsiri offered advice to Abhisit: “If I were the prime minister, I would have got rid of those who would not carry out my orders…”. . He said “there was strong support for the Red Shirts within the civil service and law enforcement agencies.”

Update 3: The Nation reports a series of bombings, including on red shirts. The headliner is another claimed grenade attack on General Anupong’s office last Tuesday. Police have tried to link police “suspended Army specialist Maj-General Khattiya Sawas-diphol for questioning, because he was seen near the Democrat Party compound before the grenade attacks.”

Update 4: More bombings reported by The Nation. One was at the headquarters of the New Politics Party, apparently using an M203 grenade launcher attached to an M16 rifle – that’s suggesting considerably more sophistication than in other attacks and probably military links. The other at the TPI building. TPI is a company linked to – depending which bit of  it you look at – the Bangkok Bank and/or Prachai Leophairatana.



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