With 4 updates: Military and red shirts clash

28 04 2010

There are several reports of clashes between red shirts and security forces at Rajaprasong and elsewhere. PPT will try to arrange these in some kind of chronology here.

The Nation reports a clash between troops and red shirts as the authorities tried to block “a caravan of red shirts protesters heading from Rajprasong rally site to Pathum Thani province by setting up road barriers and shooting at the tyres of the vehicles.” The Nation states that initial reports were that the soldiers “fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the advance team of the protesters about two kilometers from the National Memorial Monument on Paholyothin road in Bangkhen district [near Don Muang and the airport there]….  The red shirts fought back by firing home-made bamboo rockets.”

It is stated that “[h]undreds of troops mainly from Air Force and police blocked the protest convoy.  The convoy of about 2,000 red shirts travelling in more than 100 pickups from Rajprasong rally site to protest against the arrest of 11 red shirts on Monday in the province.” The red shirts were said to be led by Kwanchai Praiphana.

At Rajaprasong, tensions rose as hundreds of police and troops assembled and moved closer to the red shirts. The Nation reports also the “sounds of explosions were heard sporadically.” Troops were seen assembling “on Henry Dunant road near Chulalongkorn University and at Silom intersection. Roads surrounding the rally sites were reportedly closed. Officials and people in Chulalongkorn hospital were told to remain inside the hospital. Reporters were allowed to go inside the hospital for their safety. The hospital’s entrances and exits were closed. Speaking through megaphones, troops told the protesters who wanted to go home to leave the rally site immediately.”

CNN reports (with audio report) that the Bang Khen clash was “a very tense and intense standoff…”. It is reported that “[l]ive ammunition and rubber bullets were being used by security forces… [and] the Erawan rescue agency said eight protesters were injured in the clashes. One soldier was killed by friendly fire, police said.” The Nation says 1 dead and 10 injured. Other red shirts were working along the highway to prevent security forces reaching the site of the clashes.

The Guardian had a live blog of the clashes although it appears to have picked up other reports. The CNN reporter was on the ground. The BBC has video of troops firing what look to be rubber bullets. But live rounds were also used. That reports states this of the clash: “There was no initial attempt to stop the convoy but hundreds of security forces had set up a checkpoint in Bangkok’s northern suburbs. Some fired warning shots into the air. The BBC’s Rachel Harvey in the Thai capital said the soldier who died appeared to have been shot in a ‘friendly fire’ incident during a lull in the clashes. She says the 10 injured people have suffered only slight wounds.”

In the same BBC report, Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd is reported: “We brought force out to stop them. Society finds it unacceptable to have protesters travelling in a motorcade like this.” In addition, the BBC correspondent says that “this does not seem to be the start of a major crackdown to evict the protesters from their main camp, although demonstrators still fear an operation is imminent.” BBC also has several pictures. Sky News has a video report from the site of the clashes.

On injuries, an updated report in The Nation says: “Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit told a press conference at 4:10 pm Wednesday that so far 16 people were reported to be injured in the clash between troops and protesters in Don Muang. Jurin said 10 were admitted to the Bhumibhol Hospital. One of them was severely injured with a shot at abdomen.  Jurin said three injured people were admitted to the Rangsit Hospita and one was severely injured with a shot on the chest.”

The Bangkok Post has a lengthier article with some pictures from the red shirt side of the clash. It begins with a statement about security forces using rubber bullets and live ammunition fired “into the air to stop a red-shirt convoy moving to a fresh-food market on Wednesday.” This seems an odd beginning when the next paragraph refers to injuries and every other report PPT has seen stating there were people injured by live fire – perhaps this is the beginning of yet another claim that troops did not use live rounds on protesters. The Post makes this claim twice in the report. The reports says that “protesters … retaliated by firing stones and  home-made rockets at soldiers…”.

The clashes appear motivated by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s earlier warning “that the government would do all it could to thwart the UDD’s plan to tour the capital. Deputy  Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said authorities had been patient for two months and warned they would use decisive measures available to them under the law from now on.”

Update 1: The BBC reports that the U.K. government has “warned by the Foreign Office to avoid all but essential travel to the whole of Thailand.” Interestingly, in an updated report, the Telegraph says that “The TAT and the Royal Thai Embassy have requested a meeting with the Foreign Office tomorrow morning to discuss removing the blanket warning.” The TAT said:  “We accept the advice against travelling to Bangkok…. Although the protests are not aimed at tourists, there is major disruption. But we do believe it is excessive to advise against travel to the rest of the country.” They are supported by a journalist in Bangkok, Andrew Marshall, who claims that the warning is “absurd.” He adds that:  “The number of protestors is diminishing, and they are always found in just one part of the city…. Incidents outside Bangkok have been going on for weeks, so I can’t understand why the Foreign Office have now changed their advice.” We find this kind of statement kind of odd when there are now soldiers and others using cars caught in traffic as cover while fighting goes on.  We also note a very large uptick in provincial actions, so we feel it more reasonable to recommend Pravit’s piece as useful reading. Canada has also expanded its travel warning.

Update 2: The Nation reports “Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit announced at 5:45 pm Wednesday 18 people were reported to have receive treatment from hospitals following a clash between troops and protesters in Don Muang. Jurin said two of the injured are troops.”

Update 3: This is said to be the video of the friendly fire” incident, now blocked by the government:

Update 4: 16 pictures of the events of 28 April here.


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