Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Siamese tragedy: Bangkok town-center outraged by violence

Bangkok turned into a war zone

Protesters set fire to tyres to block army at Witthayu intersection on Rama IV Road, image by Sarot Meksophawannakul

Snipers have added numerous fears to the citizens and reporters in the City of Angels (Krung Thep) after latest fighting that killed 16 people and wounded 141 including three journalists. Troops used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against protesters armed with guns, molotov cocktails, stones and sticks, as troops reinforce to isolate protesters.

'Gunshots, grenade explosions were heard in central Bangkok until dawn as the Thai police and army battled to clear red-shirted demonstrators who refuse to leave. The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed concern over "the rapidly mounting tensions and violence." The crisis has paralyzed parts of Bangkok, squeezed Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy and scared off tourists. Troops fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds at defiant protesters who fought back with petrol bombs, stones and home-made rockets. They set vehicles on fire and rolled burning tires into checkpoints of troops. The army said the protesters were firing handguns and M-79 grenades. Army spokesmen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said there were an estimated 500 armed "terrorists" among the thousands of protesters in the city.'

'Gunfire broke out on Saturday morning in an area where anti-government protesters and army troops continued to face off after clashes on Friday left 16 dead. It was not clear which side had fired. Soldiers ran to take positions after an explosion near the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, a market and dining area normally popular with tourists. Tyres, apparently set alight by the "Red Shirt" protesters, were burning before the shooting erupted.'

Police said hundreds of demonstrators had remained in that area after a government operation Friday aimed at clearing the protesters from one area near their vast encampment, which is fortified with bamboo stakes and tyres.' The US, whose military and police forces have various security and settlement agreements with the Bangkok government, remain silent. China, whose relation with the Thai authorities are numerous, also adopted a low profile in this deep regime crisis while the Asean remains voiceless.

Rumors... spread among foreign diplomats and media. 'Payments made to the red-shirted movements to keep up agitation, armaments and narcotics sold from neighboring countries.' Tian an men memories also appearing in the midst of an overheated spring on the barricades. The whole thing photographed by foreign tourists unaware of snipers 'before the World Cup when Thai protesters will change T-Shirt for the one of their favorite football player'... as cynics voiced.

Spectacular pictures of Bangkok violence here

For years military coups in Thailand were the usual signs of collapse of a democracy in the developing world, the patience of the government observed this time might be linked to the nature of what the Thaksin regime was. Corruption and suppression of dissidents. Why Thailand bears such a sequel of dramatic scenes of brutality? Here is an in-depth investigation of recent Thai history, when Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted of power by Thai streets movements...

The Crisis in Thailand by Walden Bello

Quotes: "... Even before Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted on September 19, 2006 Thai democracy was in severe crisis because of a succession of elected but do-nothing or exceedingly corrupt regimes of which the Thaksin government was the worst. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which for all intents and purposes ran the country with no accountability from 1997 to 2001, further eroded the legitimacy of Thai democracy by imposing a program that brought great hardship to the majority. Thaksin stoked this disaffection with the IMF and the political system to create a majority coalition that allowed him to violate constitutional constraints and infringe on democratic freedoms, while using the state as a mechanism of private capital accumulation in an unparalleled fashion..."
The report here

Sources: Thai R, Bkk Post, Nation, The Hindu, wire services, Reporter's notes.

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