Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thailand: one step up towards anarchy

Red Shirts waiting for the clash with Army!

After April 10 worst political violence Thailand has seen in 18 years, leaving 25 people dead and more than 800 wounded, Thailand's political crisis extends to the northeast and the South, rural areas of the "Land of smile" as Red Shirts demonstrators blocked a train carrying military vehicles. Thousands of red-shirted protesters in the northeastern province of Khong Kaen yesterday blocked nearly 300 soldiers from traveling south of the country, as they feared the troops were reinforcements for an imminent crackdown on the protest in Bangkok.

The red-shirted group mobilized by community radio stations gathered at the railway station in the afternoon to stop the Thai National Railways train with 80 troops and 21 military vehicles aboard. Colonel Omsin Trarungruang, commander of the eastern Ban Pai district police, failed to convince protesters into releasing the military officials. Sabina Sar, a red-shirted leader, said, agencies quoted, that protesters would detain the soldiers in Khong Kaen for at least five days on instructions from leaders of the red group in Bangkok.

Thai authorities clarified the train was to send reinforcement to the south of Thailand where more than 4,000 people, Buddhists and Muslims, have been killed in six years of unrest in the largely Muslim, rubber-rich region bordering Malaysia. Also yesterday, alleged terrorists blew a grenade at a police station in Pattani province, leaving at least two dead and 42 others injured. Adding to the violence, a 20 kg bomb hidden in a car exploded less than 50 meters away from the police station, wounding another 17 people and damaging more than 10 vehicles nearby.

Red Shirt" protesters built a bamboo and tyre barricade in Bangkok Silom Road financial and red district

In Bangkok, "Red Shirt" protesters and security forces remained locked in a potentially explosive standoff in downtown Bangkok, near Silom road where banks, companies, hotels, and renown Patpong road are located not far from the river Menam Chao Prayah. One reason why the Red Shirts camp around Silom road is to target the ex Prime Minister and General Prem Tinsulanonda, faithful and close to the King of Thailand. Also a hand grenade was thrown into the compound of the Prem Tinsulanonda Foundation last night, a police officer confirmed.

Meanwhile, last night, added sense of anarchy came from the three neighborhoods' citizens who gathered on the Silom Road near the Dusit Thani Hotel. They exchanged abusive words and threw bottles to the red-shirt protesters who threw back two Molotov cocktails at Silom people, prompting them to retreat. Bangkok residents continuously tried to break through the line of police to clash with the red-shirt protesters who surged towards the Silom people as well. Government soldiers in full combat gears now guard nearby sections of the capital, in an increasingly tense standoff which could explode.

An Army Coup d'Etat?

Fear of a military coup rises as tension and anger escalate among soldiers. During the April 10th street battles, the military lost a senior officer and suffered scores of other casualties among its troops, who were mostly equipped for riot control rather than lethal combat. Calls are made to open negotiations to end 40 days of confrontations and chaos in the capital city with consequences for the economy and for tourists as some of the capital's finest hotels sent guests packing for fear of violence at their doorsteps.

So far, anti-government protests have cost lives and tailored a new pattern of fear among the population while the tourist industry is severely damaged, loosing hundreds of millions of Bahts, alarming the Asean regional powerless union except Vietnam's communiqué and Cambodia who called for a regional Summit, and the US government, maintaining bilateral military cooperation, calls for a truce and dialogue among parties.

Meanwhile in Japan, the question with no answer is: who killed the Japanese Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto?

Quotes of today: Reports in the local Asian press. "The political battle becoming dirtier by the day by Supalak Ganjanakhundee of The Nation with today's editorial from the Bangkok Post "Negotiation is best way out" . Thailand lost its legendary smile as Thailand’s poor have 'decided that docility is a thing of the past,' an Op-Ed in the New Straits Time: "Thai elite in denial over new Thailand" and also this video report of embedded on YouTube.

Sources: The Nation, The Bangkok Post, Wire news agencies, New Straits Time, China Daily, Dawn, Reporter's notes.

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