Red shirts as communists

18 05 2010

PPT is having difficulty posting on things other than current events. However, we wish to comment on an Asia Times Online report from 13 May 2010 by William Barnes. Barnes is a journalist with long experience in Thailand and has a bit of a scoop in getting Therdpoum Chaidee, a former communist and union leader from the 1970s to speak to him about the red shirts.

Therdpoum, if PPT’s memory is correct, was a strong supporter of the People’s Alliance for Democracy. But as a former member of the CPT, he can claim to have been a “colleague of key protest leaders” of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship’s (UDD). His argument is that the “relative success of Thailand’s red-garbed anti-government protest group in outmaneuvering the government and military owes much to Maoist revolutionary thought and guerrilla tactics.”

PPT is not sure how much credibility to give such a claim when the PAD were supported by many former members of the CPT – at one time they had almost the whole last politburo of the CPT on stage! This point is made later in the article. However, the attempt to link red shirts to communists is at least an interesting claim to make,and not for the first time.

The claim is that some of the red shirt leaders learned their political strategies with the CPT. We suppose that is a truism, but what is claimed? The main point seems to be that the CPT decided that “strategy has necessarily required violence…”. Well, yes, they were fighting a people’s war. And it is that claim that was made earlier , for red shirts. But it wasn’t the CPT red shirts making the claim. Rather it was their former enemies from the military – Seh Daeng and Panlop Pinmanee.

If the CPT-ified strategy was to use the “threat of violence, to divide and immobilize Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government,” it hasn’t worked. Therdpoom is cited on old CPT strategy: “The revolution walks on two legs. One political leg and one army leg. Violence is the essential ingredient in the mix. That is what we were taught,” but is this a “revolutionary situation”? The claim is that the “UDD has publicly portrayed itself as a non-violent, pro-democracy movement, a line many international media outlets have perpetuated.” That’s only partly true. The international media has spent a lot of time trying to show that some red shirts are armed.

It is said that “UDD leaders have threatened ‘civil war’ if security forces crack down on their supporters…”. Again, that’s partly true. The red shirts have warned of a civil war if there is a crackdown, as a consequence of such an action. And, Abhisit has used the term as a threat and claimed the need to crackdown to avoid a civil war.

The article spends some time on Thaksin, but doesn’t explain how this big-time capitalist has become a communist…. Or why the red shirt demand has been for a dissolution of parliament rather than a revolution (although there might be a hint of republicanism as being revolutionary, but that would be a bit of a yawn for a communist revolutionary).

Therdpoum claims that the “people who are the real planners, not the people up on stage making protest speeches, these people probably keep a very low profile, but they must calculate that aggression is vital…. Aggression paralyzes and divides opponents. This is what we were taught, this is how a smaller force can defeat overwhelming power. The message was: divide and conquer.” This claim is one that does the rounds regularly amongst academics and journalists – that the on-stage red shirt leaders are stooges (usually for Thaksin).

Therdpoum is said to have been a communist but “later renounced the ideology.” It says that Seksan Prasertkun and “current UDD leaders Weng Tochirakan and Jaran Dittapichai, were drilled in Maoist revolutionary theory” in Hanoi.

PPT is unable to immediately check this for accuracy; maybe a reader can confirm or deny it.

The “five tactics they learned for unseating a government included: divide your enemies; form a united front; use provocative violence; secure the loyalty of people inside the ruling regime; and, finally, win over the army.” He adds: “That is what we have seen. The government people have been quarrelling about what to do. Some senior figures have a divided loyalty. The army and the police cannot move. Provocative violence has been very successful…”.

The article suggests that the UDD’s shunning of  “hard policy debates in favor of simple credos of justice denied and the hypocrisy of elites” is communist strategy. PPT doesn’t recall a lot of hard policy from the yellow shirts either, and this is suggestive of street and rally politics rather than communism.

The claim that the red shirts have been “pumped full of toy-town leftism and told to hate every institution that has held this country together” is a somewhat arrogant claim made by Therdphoom. PPT attended a number of red shirt rallies and saw none of this. Some of the red shirt literature is more leftist, deriving from particular groups, but that is more sphisticated than Therdphoom allows. He seems to have become a monarchist and that is where his fear lies: “I worry that the bitterness and hatred produced by this propaganda now runs so deep it will cause tension and problems for a long time…”.

He claims: “Many of them [red shirts] are now absolutely convinced that Thaksin was the best leader in Thai history, that he was a kind and generous man who holds the solution to all their problems. They don’t need a program – they just need a new Thai state with Thaksin in charge. It has become very emotional – as it was designed to be…”.

PPT agrees that many red shirts are convinced that they did better under Thaksin than any previous leader. We disagree that the idea that Thaksin should return to head government is so widely held. But if we are talking of beliefs held, perhaps Therdphoom should also ask why his allies simply hate Thaksin and think that all his supporters are ignorant, duped or paid.

Therdphoom makes a claim that yellow-shirted intellectuals and journalists are passing about: “The red shirts …  now… [have] a hand-picked core of ‘professional revolutionaries’ chosen for their loyalty and street smarts…”. These people hide the “deep secrets” and “hidden messages” that are “revealed to only a privileged few in the movement, while an even smaller number know the entire strategy…”.

It seems that “Therdpoum believes that the UDD’s sincere left-wing members are using Thaksin and anticipate the opportunity to eventually dump his personal agenda in favor of the establishment of a more socialist society. Some of the former communists who took up arms and fled into the jungle in the 1970s and 1980s and were once in Thaksin’s inner circle include Prommin Lertsuridej, Phumtham Wechayachai, Sutham Saengprathum, Phinit Jarusombat, Adisorn Piangket and Kriangkamon Laohapairot.”

But, as the article points out after mischievously naming these people: “Its unclear how many of those former communists are now active from behind-the-scenes in the UDD’s planning and strategy.”

The article’s author claims that “UDD organizer Jaran Dittapichai told this correspondent that the protest group had adopted ‘Mao Zedong’s method of thinking’ and some of his techniques, including the establishment of a united front.” But this seems to amount to nothing when Jaran adds: “I was a communist and several leaders were former communists … but the red shirt people don’t like communism or socialism. We use his principles to build up our front and to work with people who are not red shirts, but who are fighting for democracy like us.” In other words, they adopt united front tactics that long predate Mao. In any case, Mao’s main revolutionary strategy was countryside encircling the cities and peasant revolution. The current actions look more like the Paris Commune than a rural-based armed revolution.

While it is interesting to be regaled by former CPT member Therdphoom, his ideas amount to little more than a guess, made into a rumor that satisfies some in the trembling middle classes who fear that the red shirts are cousins of the Khmer Rouge.





Further updated: Some items from readers

18 05 2010

We at PPT are still struggling to keep up with all of the information available. In this post we list some of the posts and articles our readers have sent in. We have several other posts timed for the next few hours.

*The Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok, at one of the conflict zones, is not accepting reservations until 24 May, when a 3500 baht room is the cheapest available. Do they know something or are they guessing?

*The Bangkok Post has a story about Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd of CRES apparently claiming that anyone shooting at civilians must be a red shirt. This will undoubtedly be claimed more regularly in the future as the government seeks to allocate blame to others, again raising the men in black claims.

*A reader points to a CSM story by former foreign minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon, where he raises the specter of an International Criminal Court inquiry into Thailand’s killings, sounding a little like Thaksin Shinawatra’s recently-hired international lawyers.

*Several readers have pointed to this blog by a doctoral student as well worth reading.

*Also, readers point to red shirt defiance in this report from The Independent by Andrew Buncombe at Seh Daeng’s funeral.

Updates:

*A reader has sent a link to this post by the Asian Centre for Human Rights. It makes a point PPT made more than a month ago: “The international community’s silence in the face of a human rights catastrophe.” It concludes in this way:

International community must intervene for a negotiated solution

International concern about the situation in Thailand has been strikingly muted and mainly restricted to travel warnings. The UN Secretary General has expressed his concern. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has rejected suggestions of UN mediation as interference in internal affairs. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had earlier already rejected the offer of mediation by President Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor. The demand of the Red Shirts for UN mediation too was rejected.

The international community including the OHCHR and relevant Special Procedures mandate holders must raise concern over the use of excessive force by the Thai authorities and the risk of even wider human rights violations in Thailand. They must remind the Thai Government of its international human rights obligations. They must urge the government to return to negotiation able. It must not wait for a massacre.

The United Nations Human Rights Council on its part must hold a Special Session on the situation of human rights in Thailand. It must not be once again a victim of politicisation and selectivity.

*Life has some interesting photos.

Former foreign minister of Thailand weighs in on Thailand’s crisis.


By Kantathi Suphamongkhon





Further updated: Deadline passes and “Containment by live fire”

17 05 2010

The BBC has a useful report,with video, on the passing of the deadline set by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government in Bangkok. The video details the military tactic of “containment by live fire” where apparently the soldiers shoot at anyone they can see moving near the red shirt zone.

The BBC reports that “protesters – many of them women – continued to clap and cheer speakers on [the red shirt] stage in the centre of their vast camp as a deadline passed.”

Officially it seems that there are now “36 dead, and some 250 injured.” After this, it is said that the “government says it will talk to the protesters as long as they show ‘sincerity’ by leaving their camp.” PPT would think that such an offer would be treated with disdain. The BBC says that “few of the 5,000 remaining protesters appeared to heed the call” from the government to leave. Yellow shirt commentators seem to think these are paid protesters and gunmen as they continue to cheer the demise of Seh Daeng.

A state of emergency is now declared for 22 provinces and it seems that unrest has spread. PPT has posted on Ubon, and the BBC reports “a military bus set afire in the northern city of Chiang Mai and demonstrations in two north-eastern towns in defiance of a government ban.”

Red shirt spokesman Sean Boonpracong is on the BBC as we write this, saying women and children are being taken out. He was followed by acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn, who made the remarkable claim that there were 35,000 to 40,000 still in the area. PPT assumes a Chinese-style failure on tens of thousands. [Update: now corrected on the BBC to 3500-4000]

Simon Roughneen at The Irrawaddy has a post-deadline report. He reports some protesters leaving. He cites CRES spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd saying, “If the protesters will not end the situation, we will have to enter the encampment.” He cites Abhisit, who is said to be “more obdurate than his spokesman, saying ‘We will move forward. We cannot retreat now.’ He insisted the military operation to quell protests was the answer to ending the country’s two-month-long crisis, and seems to be staking his credibility on a crackdown. Speaking somewhat vaguely and quite ominously, he added that ‘Overall, I insist the best way to prevent losses is to stop the protest. The protest creates conditions for violence to occur. We do realize at the moment that the role of armed groups is increasing each day’.” Abhisit has been stubborn all along.





Bangkok as Sarajevo

17 05 2010

The Times (17 May 2010) compares Bangkok to Sarajevo. The story by Richard Lloyd Parry begins: “It is obvious that something frightening has overcome the city of Bangkok…. Towering barricades of rubber tyres topped with forests of bamboo staves block either end of the street. The hotel receptionist warns us to keep the curtains tightly drawn all night for fear of snipers lurking on the roofs of surrounding buildings.”

This story claims at least “33 people have been killed and more than 200 injured since Friday” and it could well be far more than this.

The author notes that: “Cameramen and photographers have recorded soldiers firing with telescopic sights and, as a result, people all over Bangkok live in fear of snipers, who are fancied to be on top of every building.”

It is mentioned that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has “indignantly rejected a proposal by Red Shirt leaders for negotiations mediated by the United Nations.” In fact he rejects any foreign mediation.

The article mentions Seh Daeng, but not his death. The yellow-shirt blogs are ecstatic.

It says that “soldiers put up signs warning of ‘Live Firing Zones’. Rama IV, a main road of banks and offices, resembles Sarajevo at the height of the Balkan wars.”

The author says it “is depressingly difficult to see any end to the violence, or any way of bringing together the two sides that race in parallel without any chance of meeting. Mr Abhisit has never won an election: he came to power as the indirect consequence of a military coup [and PAD demonstrations and a judicial coup]. To the Red Shirts it is only a matter of justice that he should be tested at the polls. To the Government it is equally obvious that such matters cannot be determined by mob rule.”

No retreat says Abhisit.





Further updated, with video: “We are only killing terrorists” and other conspiratorial ideas

16 05 2010

It seems that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government has been able to develop a new definition of “terrorist.” It is apparently anyone the army kills during the current crackdown on red shirt protesters. This definition is conveyed in a BBC report seen by PPT at about 1800GMT.

The report is devastating for the government’s position because it shows soldiers targeting and shooting at demonstrators in a very careful and calculated manner. The BBC reporter is then shown at the other end of this targeting and shooting. The people being targeted are those burning a few tires, armed with slingshots, firecrackers and crude petrol bombs. In a dramatic piece of video – which we’ll post as soon as we find a link – a protester is shot in the leg. Update: Here’s the video:

The government is desperately fighting a losing battle for the international media as it prepares to clear the remaining red shirts from Rajaprasong. The problem is that the protesters have opened several “fronts” now. This battle may go on for several more days and will be even bloodier than it has been so far.

Update 1: For those who would like a yellow-hued version of events at present, replete with some comments that will strike readers as callous and calculating, we recommend 2Bangkok.com‘s post on “civil war.” We don’t reproduce it all but a few choice cuts:

Claims of civil war “by the Prime Minister … have less to do with the ability of the Red Shirts to conduct civil war and more about justifications for tough action that will be taken. Such claims are part of an overall media campaign on local TV screens to prove the Red Shirts are violent and bent on ‘disunity’.”

It is stated that “military involvement and the unshakable government coalition makes it clear to all that near term dissolution will not be tolerated–it is only a question of who gets wiped out during this operation and who the results will negatively impact.” Maybe the red shirts knew this when they rejected the Abhisit road map?

The army’s loyalty has been doubted, but “present operations–beginning with the removal of Seh Daeng–shows something has changed and there is some commitment to act though a final clearance plan. A coup still remains unlikely, but if one should occur it would indicate the need to go beyond legal norms in liquidating perceived threats to the state.” This perspective has no doubt at all about who took out Seh Daeng.

“It will be up to the Red Shirts to prove they can field thousands more men from the provinces willing to fight their way into Bangkok.” Further, “Just like during the April 2009 rioting, the Red Shirts are purposely being allowed to run riot and then clips of this are repeated over and over on TV in a public relations campaign to prove to the public the Reds are rowdy and violent.” Really? Well we guess it will work for the frightened and panicked middle class, but do they need convincing? The idea that anyone on either side needs any convincing about the flaws of the other seems somewhat quaint.

But, “the desire all around is for the dual destruction of both the Red Shirt leadership and the Democrats for the purposes of future politics. This means many players will want the end to be as bloody and messy as possible. This means the Democrats’ goals are becoming clear as well–serve out as much of their term as possible after removing any further threat of mass rallies during their remaining tenure–so this has to mean capturing or co-opting the Red leadership.” That’s an interesting perspective. Who fills the supposed gap? Sondhi Limthongkul and his band of yellow shirts? Newin Chidchob?

And its added: “Those with a less politically centered view will be working to one goal after the Red leadership is deposed of–to ensure that the roused Red masses reassemble under the leadership of conventional political parties and will not again be harnessed again for more revolutionary goals.”

Forget any Thaksin comeback: “It is likely that a blizzard of legal and procedural changes will be enacted in an attempt to combat a return of a Thaksin-controlled party.” At the same time, the yellow view of red shirts has not changed one iota: “Thaksin [could] … rouse legions of rural people with new political aspirations and expectations…. The definition of democracy for most of these people is the ability to make money and be prosperous and secure. This comes from the tradition of aligning oneself with powerful ‘big men’–like police or military men, other family members, employers, or politicians.”

Update 2: For details on reports from foreign journalists of army snipers using a hospital as a perch and shooting at ambulances, see the first few comments on this post at New Mandala.





Ji Ungpakorn and red shirts on the current clashes

14 05 2010

The military-backed government of Abhisit Vejjajiva has now deployed army snipers to assassinate unarmed Red Shirt pro-democracy protesters. One woman has been shot dead near the stage at Rajprasong in Bangkok. At least 4 unarmed protesters have been killed in this latest round of army violence.A  Canadian reporter has also been shot. Earlier, Seh Daeng was a victim of an assassination attempt. The Thai elites, the Generals, the Democrat Party and the Palace will stop at nothing to try to cling to power. The Red Shirts are determined to stand firm and fight for freedom and democracy.

UDD leadership statement at 16.13 Bangkok time:

1.      The Government must stop the use of force, cease fire and immediately withdraw troops back to barracks. The Government must end the State of Emergency which has been an excuse to kill citizens.

2.      Parliament should be dissolved immediately, and Abhisit and Deputy Sutep must step down from public office since they have no legitimacy.

3.      Those responsible for the violence, the assassination attempt against Seh Daeng, and the killings of at least two civilians and numerous injuries, must face the justice system, just like the UDD leaders will do because of Government instigated charges.

If the Government does not accept these demands, the situation in Bangkok and other parts of the country will be extremely serious. There is already a Civil War situation.





Eyewitness on Seh Daeng assassination bid

14 05 2010

PPT doesn’t usually post much material that is not in newspapers or other media. However, this note from a reader struck as being of potential interest in the current murky circumstances:

Eyewitness account i’ve been sent of sae daeng shooting – please use but don’t mention me

“I was at Sala Deang area near the MRT station. A group of us reported about noise coming from the the Dusit hotel. What looked like a long stick extended from the roof top. Within minutes, the general (Seh Daeng) was speaking to his supporters, offering water to an elderly lady and giving her a hug. Moments later, a shot was heard from overhead. The object had been pulled back and a man with a black hood stood up and walked away. About 5 min. later. A man wearing the same outfit was escorted out of the hotel into a black police van. Quickly, it took off and proceeded to go up Rama 4 and turned left to go towards MBK.

Military officers where seen smiling and shaking each others hands from this killing of this man.

Our party was told by an army officer.

You have seen nothing, go back to your hotel at once or you will be arrested and deported.

He repeated again and again. You’ve seen nothing, nothing to see here. Go back to your hotels.”





Final: The army continues to move in

14 05 2010

Facing considerable resistance, huge numbers of troops continue to surround the red shirt protest zone at Rajaprasong. They are gradually moving in on the protesters but are reportedly meeting considerable but sporadic resistance. Some useful reporting is as The Thai Report.

Meanwhile, the yellow-shirt media cheers the assassination attempt on Seh Daeng, asking why it took so long to get him, and to urge the government on to crush the red shirts. 2Bangkok.com suggests that the bid to kill Seh Daeng is army revenge (scroll down to Colonel Romklao’s revenge – May 14, 2010).

Bangkok Pundit has some recent news reports and tweets from reporters who are still seeing and hearing sporadic gunfire.

SkyNews reports that at least three foreign journalists have been shot and wounded. It names one of them as being Nelson Rand from France 24 television. This link includes a brief report on events in Bangkok. The Nation reports that a Matichon photographer – named as Jo Subin – was shot and wounded.

The Nation also reports that clashes continue: “Troops clashed with protesters at the Rajprarop security checkpoint Friday afternoon. Protesters tried to ambush troops at the Rajprarop barricade at 2:15 pm, leading to an exchange of gunfire. The sounds of gunfire prompted reporters and photographers to run for cover around building corners.”

James Hookway in the Wall Street Journal has a longer report on Friday’s continuing troubles: “Antigovernment protesters in Bangkok pushed back against police and army efforts to pin them down in the center of Thailand’s capital Friday, setting fire to a police bus and beefing up the improvised fortifications around their camp as violent clashes continued from the night before. Troops responded by firing bullets and tear gas at protesters attempting to turn the area into a war zone. It wasn’t immediately clear if the soldiers were using live ammunition, but they had previously been authorized to do so by army commanders who say ‘terrorists’ are operating within the demonstrators’ ranks.” It seems clear that live ammunition is being used (see comments above on wounded journalists).

Britain’s The Sun raises the prospect of civil war.

Yesterday, PPT suggested that the government side would deny involvement in the assassination bid against Seh Daeng. It didn’t take long. ChannelNewsAsia reports that Colonel Dithaporn Sasasmit, the spokesman for the army-run Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC) has denied army involvement. The fact that CRES stated that snipers were deployed and the reports of yellow media (see above) seems to throw doubt on the denials. CRES spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd also denies. AP reports he says: “It has nothing to do with the military. It has never been our policy (to assassinate). We have been avoiding violence…”. So why the snipers despatched to rooftops yesterday? Snipers are used for just one purpose. See Thailand’s Troubles on the assassination bid.

Useful Asian Correspondent video:

AP reports that “troops fired bullets and tear gas at anti-government protesters rioting near the U.S. and Japanese embassies Friday as an army push to clear the streets sparked bloody clashes and turned central Bangkok into a virtual war zone.” It added that “Friday’s violence was centered on a small area home to several foreign embassies. Soldiers crouched behind a raised road divider and fired rubber bullets, live ammunition and tear gas shells. Army vehicles were seen speeding on deserted streets littered with stones and debris. Protesters retreated and hurled rocks and insults.”

The BBC has a recent report (1004GMT) on continuing urban warfare in Bangkok, with video. Worth viewing. The report shows troops firing weapons into what appears to be Lumpini Park and states that troops are stopping and searching ambulances (recall when the red shirts copped huge criticism for doing this? PPT expects nothing to be said about this when the government forces do it).

Colonel Sansern is cited in a SkyNews report as saying that clashes with red shirts at the Suan Lum night market occured when the former tried “to stop soldiers moving towards their main camp in central Bangkok.” He claimed that about 2,000 red shirts “intimidated authorities with weapons” so there was “an order was given to disperse them.” This is Sansern speak for opening fire.

Brian McCarten at Asia Times Online says that clashes on Friday “became much more serious as troops clashed with the protesters, firing rubber bullets, live ammunition and tear gas in an attempt to seal off their [the red shirt] encampment…”. He adds that casualties are mounting: “the death of one demonstrator, [and] around 30 people, including Seh Daeng, were injured during Thursday night’s violence.” [Erawan Emergency Center reports casualty update: 22 injured (4 in ICU), one dead. Among them, 1 Canadian and 1 Burmese.]

McCarten also reports that some red shirts appear to be armed. PPT doesn’t quite understand the media’s fascination with revealing that some protesters are armed.  And, according to this report, some protesters are not hiding this fact from the media. Clearly, while the vast bulk of protesters are unarmed or are fighting with rudimentary weapons (including rocks and slingshots), there are clearly some armed protesters. Thailand is a violent society and weapons are widely available, so it would seem logical to assume that some red shirts will have armed themselves for what they see as a final clash at Rajaprasong.

BBC reports (1122GMT)  “Redshirt spokesman Sean Boonpracong, saying there were ’40 companies of troops firing teargas, rubber bullets, as well as live ammunition’ who had converged on the area.”

This reporting is all based on tweets from journalists: At 1220-1230GMT, clashes are reported to be continuing, apparently in an expanded area, but still focused around Rajaprasong/Lumpini. Reporters have been warned to identify themselves with green arm bands but also to stay away from clashes as the military cannot guarantee that they won’t get shot. Shooting has erupted at Suan Phlu, Rajaprarop and Din Daeng with further reports of deaths and woundings.

At 1240GMT it is reported that tear gas has been fired into the Rajaprasong area and that explosions (tear gas canisters) have been heard near the main red shirt stage. Explosions also reported at Saladaeng.

NPR reports: “The situation seems to grow more dangerous by the hour in Bangkok, where thousand of anti-government “red-shirt” protesters and authorities are facing off.” A tweet at 1255GMT says “all hell breaking loose” at Saladaeng. Large numbers of trooops gathered in Sukhumvit.

MCOT Twitters that “Health Minister: Taxi driver confirmed dead, 37 persons including 3 journalists wounded in day-long clashes between troops and Red Shirts.” As this appears, another red shirt is reported dead.

Armored vehicles and ambulances are said to be moving into Saladaeng area. MCOT (see above for link) twitters that “Army mobilises armoured vehicles to Sala Daeng intersection for operation to retake area, a burst of gunshots heard continuously.”

Useful video of troops in action, firing live rounds at Guardian site.

At 1340GMT there’s an iunconfirmed report of an attack on the red shirt stage including an attempt to assassinate red shirt leaders. Report is of one woman shot by sniper.

Bangkok Post confirms blast at Rajaprasong: “A bomb exploded in the middle of the anti-government rally at Ratchaprasong commercial district on Friday evening. At least 15 people were injured from the blast. Reports said the explosion occurred at 6.20pm at the protest venue in Bangkok’s main shopping district. The blast caused people to scatter and hide at nearby areas.
Leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) had to jump down from the stage and told their supporters to protect themselves by lying on the floor.”

Explosions also reported at Saladaeng. <a href=”http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/05/bullets_fly_in_bangkok_as_thai.html&#8221; target=”_blank”>NPR</a> reports: “The situation seems to grow more dangerous by the hour in Bangkok, where thousand of anti-government “red-shirt” protesters and authorities are facing off.” A tweet at 1255GMT says “all hell breaking loose” at Saladaeng. Large numbers of trooops gathered in Sukhumvit.




ACHR Calls for Accountability and Negotiation

14 05 2010

The India-based Asian Center for Human Rights has released the following statement:

Thai General shot at, many injured in the
Thai Army firing on the Red Shirts

Prime Minister Abhisit warned of international criminal action

New Delhi: The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) in its Press Release stated that General Khattiya Sawatdiphol, 59, better known as Seh Daeng has been shot at and seriously injured along with two others in the firing by the Army on the Red Shirts demonstrators today evening. The 11th Regiment of the Thai Army launched “Operation Ratchaprasong” at 6 pm Bangkok Time to disperse the Red Shirts protestors who have been camping at Ratchaprasong, Bangkok since 14 March 2010.

General Khattiya Sawatdiphol was shot at while giving an interview to the reporter of The International Herald Tribune.

“On 30th April 2010, I had personally visited the site of the demonstration. It is clear that the use of force including fire-arms will lead to murder of many civilians.” – Stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the talks between the government and the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) collapsed on the issue of justice i.e. as to who shall be held responsible for the killings as a result of firing by the security forces on 10th April 2010.” – further stated Mr Chakma.

On 30 April 2010, the ACHR recommended that a joint parliamentary investigation consisting of the opposition Members of Parliament and ruling party would be best way to assuage the sentiments of the victims and to provide justice.

ACHR warned that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva can be held individually responsible as provided under the Article 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute of International Criminal Court for intentionally directed the attacks against the civilian demonstrators who are not taking part in any hostility as provided under Article 8(2)(e)(i) of the Rome Statute.

The Asian Centre for Human Rights appealed to the Prime Minister to immediately withdraw the troops, return to talks with the UDD and among others, address the issue of justice for the killings on 10th April 2010.





First reports of attacks on red shirts

13 05 2010

This post began as a running commentary as fighting broke out in Bangkok, with a reported 32,000 armed troops surrounding red shirt protesters. PPT has now returned to regular posting.

2Bangkok.com reports: “More shooting and grenades reported at the southern Red Shirt barricades (at Silom Road) / Key Red Shirt militant leader Seh Daeng shot and hospitalized / Some reports of protesters fleeing the rally site.

Bangkok Pundit says this:

21:10: TNN reports that Seh Daeng was shot by a high velocity gun.”

“20:30 ThaiPBS reports that sounds of gunfire also heard near Sala Daeng intersection and was fired into the red shirts. TNN reports it was Seh Daeng who was shot.”

Blogging at New Mandala says: “Several injured it seems. More gun / M79 fire. Guns firing right now as I peck on my iPhone. 19.31” and later: “Dozens of shots fired….probably 100 or so by now. Still unclear as to number of injuries / deaths, if any.” See comment thread for reports from many observers.

Bloomberg reports: “Thai security forces have started an operation to seal off a central Bangkok commercial district with 6,000 protesters inside…”. Updated report here.

AP reports: “A short burst of gunfire and at least two explosions have been heard in central Bangkok where Red Shirt anti-government protesters are camped.It was not clear who was shooting, but the sounds came after the government said it will impose a military lockdown on the area in an effort to evict the protesters.” SkyNews has a similar report. BBC has a report also.

VOA reports that Seh Daeng has been shot. It is unclear whether he is dead. Seems an eye-witness account of the sniper shot at Seh Daeng: “VOA Correspondent Daniel Schearf in Bangkok reports witnessing the general, known as Seh Daeng, being shot, possibly by a sniper, within the so-called Red Shirt protesters barricaded rally site. There are also reports of gunfire and other explosions inside the encampment.” CNN says Seh Daeng is critically wounded. AP (updated here) and Reuters report on this assassination bid also. Photo of Seh Daeng in hospital here. Red shirt leaders reportedly defiant, although other reports are that some are taking cover or even resigning, maybe out of fear that they are assassination targets.

Times Online reports on a statement by Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd of CRES that says “Snipers will be deployed in the operation.” Looks like they might have had Seh Daeng as their first target.

A New Mandala blogger says that “Silom [is] like a quiet war zone after the initial frenzy about 7:30.” Al Jazeera has a longer report. The Nation’s report is here, with commentary that suggests injuries to an unknown number of protesters from bomb explosions.

The attack on Seh Daeng may have been an attempt to shock and to take out someone the government has always seen as a critical factor in red shirt organizing. It is possible that the government side may now wait to see red shirt reaction before continuing with any crackdown. It is difficult to see who the government could blame for this assassination attempt, but in the past few weeks that have always denied everything. Maybe they say they were taking out a “terrorist.”

Somewhat oddly, the Straits Times has a account of Seh Daeng here, without mentioning his shooting.

Readers might want to follow the TAN Twitter on events. A reader suggests that this Twitter site incorporates TAN and others. Reports clashes at the hospital where Seh Daeng has been taken for emergency treatment. TAN has a useful timeline of events. CNN has a voice report from Dan Rivers.

Red shirt crowds remained in place (see photos here) and groups of red shirts clashed sporadically with soldiers.








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