Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bangkok under "Live Firing Zone"!

A lonely TukTuk on Bangkok's boulevards

Red shirts protesters are loosing the battle while PM Abhisit Vejjajiva has vowed to stop protesters from toppling his government.

"We will not retreat," Mr Abhisit said in a televised statement, we cannot allow the country to be in a condition in which people can establish an armed group to topple the government that they are not happy with."

Thai government strategy is to bring gains in spite of a heavy bloodshed. From 10.000, the number of Red shirts protesters dropped to 5.000. I can see why. The fighting took place in a 3 square km war-zone and it could not succeed. The strategy mistake of the red shirts was to settle their fight into such area made for chic tourists and businessmen. Water, food, electricity, telecommunication were cut (what are ex Telecom Tycoon Thaksin's boys doing about it?)

Far from their logistics, cut off from their supporters in popular areas, no arms or aid expected to Silom and Ratchaprasong quarters under an unbearable + 40 degrees Celsius. It is just a matter of days before this desperate wave of riots come to and end and Thaksin partners sent to courts, commentators say. We'll see.

Stones and petrol bombs against M-16

Remaining combatants are the Red-shirt die-hards! They will confront the Thai authorities and it leaves the government and the military forces with the responsibility of deciding if PM Abhisit Vejjajiva can rule after the bloodshed? Rangoon and Tiananmen are in mind of the world people. One difference is that Thailand is under scrutiny and its economy needs foreigners, capital, investment, people. For days repeated calls for dialogue between government and red shirts calls came from the whole world leaders.

Two days of street battles between soldiers and anti-government "Red Shirts" have left more than 20 people dead, all civilians, and 187 wounded. The military declared one area of Bangkok a "live fire zone" as troops struggled to regain control. Scenes of urban warfare erupted on the southern and northern fringes of the Red Shirts' sprawling encampment in the heart of Bangkok, after the army moved in Thursday to seal off the area.

Thai army sniper

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who last week shelved a plan to hold early elections because the protesters refused to disperse, warned last night that the government "cannot turn back" in the two-month standoff.

"Countdown to End Game" writes the TAN TV network. "As DAAD movement approaches its most dramatic stage, its leaders have been put in the most difficult position of all. Amid rising tension, they must make up their minds between one of two choices – either to give up or to fight on. If they choose the first choice, their concern will be how they can disperse the rally in the most gracious way possible and let their defeated supporters go home. It doesn't sound like a good choice but the consequences are far better than that of the latter choice which will lead to a huge body count."

According to local media, the army says it is tightening its grip around the camp, which has taken over Ratchaprasong, the battle zone commercial district of high-end shops, hotels and embassies in central Bangkok, in order to starve it of reinforcements and supplies. Army spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd said about 5,000 protesters remained, down from twice that number a few days ago. There is a plan to crack down on Ratchaprasong if the protest does not end," said the army spokesman, Sunsern Kaewkumnerd. More than 50 people have been killed and 1,600 have been wounded since the protests began on March 12, according to figures from the emergency services and the public health ministry.

The aging most respected King did not appeal but the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn has expressed her concern for the patients and medical personnel at Chulalongkorn Hospital and sent food and water. A sign expected from the Thai people.

Twitts and blogs again on the front line. Not necessarily with guarantees of sound judgment and impartiality, but in the large amount of messages, a certain "people's voice" allow to see better in dire situations such as the Thai crisis. I saw this one "Bangkok Dangerous : Areas to avoid in Bangkok this weekend: Sala Daeng/Silom area, Lumpini Boxing Stadium/Bon Kai area and Ratchaprarop to Din Daeng area." Pictures of BKK clashes here

People power

"The non-ideological notion of “people power” is back in vogue in East Asia, especially in those democracies that are in distress, writes Frontline magazine of the Hindu media group . Thailand, which hit crisis mode sometime in the middle of March, is not alone in groping for the substance of this idea, which has almost become a political formula of sorts in the East Asian milieu of enormous diversity.

Japan, which prides itself on being the oldest democracy in geographical East Asia as different from the wider geopolitical region by the same name, witnessed some new signs of people power in April on the issue of Tokyo’s foreign policy equation with the United States. Elsewhere in East Asia, Indonesia, as of end-April, is back in the political business of assessing the potency of people power as different from the primacy of the country’s President.

The notion of people power, insofar as it is variously invoked in the differing political situations within the state boundaries across East Asia, is not of any uniform standard. For instance, the anger among sections of the Japanese people over the continuing U.S. military presence in Okinawa is qualitatively different from the clamour for people power in Thailand. Nonetheless, an idea emerging in some significant pockets across East Asia is quite unmistakable: that the traditional centres of power must be accountable to the people at large. Within this broad spectrum, Thailand is conspicuous as the new theatre of people power, although the phrase itself is not at all as commonplace as in the Philippines for a number of years or as in some sections of Malaysia in recent years." End of quotes. Article is interesting.

Last but not least: Seen on some TV channels: Are you there? Send your images, video... And now major TV networks, ask citizens for reporting! Until death part? A totally unprofessional gesture from the marketing branches of these networks.

✍✍✍ "I would not advise young tourists or inexperienced visitors to emotionally metamorphose into sudden war-zone-free reporters. Please all be cautious. Snipers are all around. Leave it to professionals and even for them it's a hell of a work, I speak of quite recent experience."

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