Monday, April 13, 2009

Army crackdown on protesters in Bangkok

Early Monday morning Bangkok time the army moved in against "red shirt" protesters who had taken over stategic points throughout the capital. The Thai media have cited official claims that there were no fatalities during the crackdown: "The government, health officials and the military insisted there were no fatalities among the protesters" reported the Bangkok Post. Media-live bloggers cite foreign news sources that tell a different story For example, AP reported that "Thai soldiers sprayed automatic weapons fire into the air and threw tear gas to clear protesters blocking roads in the capital in the pre-dawn darkness Monday." (photo right: Tamanxzg)

Nick Nostitz, The crushing of the red shirts, New Mandala (3,000 words +, 40+ photos)
I can’t offer a complete picture . . . I had only views of where I went to photograph as things went completely out of control. I am weeks away from being able to somewhat analyze what happened. I have not even read any news article on the events right now, as I want to keep my memories as unfiltered as possible. . . . these are just my limited personal impressions of these terrible days while working almost non-stop with very little sleep or rest. This is what I have seen, experienced and photographed. . . . I just want to give a sense of how things felt on the streets.
Nick's introduction is far too modest. Here are some of the many remarkable insights to be gleaned from Nick's outstanding report, a true masterpiece of there-live blogging, complete with gorgeous photographs:
  • On the crackdown: "As I walked carefully towards the fighting, Red Shirts were running towards me, away from the sound of bursts of automatic rifles. They shouted that the Army was coming. I ran with them, my bullet proof vest, the heat and plain fear slowed me down."
  • On allegations of army killings: "Agitated Red Shirts told me of people having been killed, and dragged by soldiers into lorries. I have no way of verifying this. This was obviously not a situation where I could cross the lines and make polite inquiries."
  • On bad luck: "I realized with panic that my camera has given up. I could not make it work. . . .And that on the only Thai holiday where almost every shop is closed."
  • On being conscripted by the MSM: "Thilo Thielke, the “Spiegel” correspondent, called me, and told me that I should consider myself under assignment."
  • On attacks against the media: "Unfortunately, what many of them [red shirts] do not understand, is that Thai journalists are as divided over the political situation as the general Thai population, and many Thai journalists do not agree with the PAD or government policy. The result of these attacks was that most Thai journalists did not dare anymore to go close to the Red Shirts, and remained with the Army, even as Red Shirt leaders asked the protesters not to attack them. Part of the problem of course is that also many speeches on the stage condemned Thai media for being too partial towards the PAD. This is not too untrue, but unfortunately it results in attacks against the media. Right now only foreign journalists can safely work with Red Shirts. This is a huge problem for the future. Very few foreign journalists are fluent enough in Thai to directly speak in Thai, and too few Red Shirts speak English well enough."
  • On further allegations of killings: "'At about 4 or 5 am I went to Pitsanulok Road at the Nang Loen intersection. There were no sounds of gunshots anymore, and the fighting seemed to have dropped off. I spoke with several Red Shirt guards who told me harrowing tales of the battles, of how they have seen friends dragged away and beaten to death, and how they could not reach the corpses before they were snatched away."
  • On whether the government has been telling the truth: "Red Shirts are convinced that a number of their members have been killed (and I have strong suspicions that they are not too wrong in this assessment, but have no evidence or proof whatsoever). The government has to organise an official and neutral inquiry. And it has to stop lying that only fake bullets were used, and only fired into the air. . . . "
This is just an overview of some of Nick's insights.

Sioen, Roux Sioenroux/Flickr, (15 photos)

Nirmal Ghosh, LIVE: Bangkok skirmish, Straights Times
I'm now in a police box with a policeman monitoring CCTVs. He is in good humour. He says there is no violence elsewhere, but the Reds are burning stuff. He says he disagrees with the army's use of live ammo. One wonders how long it will be before the Reds burn buildings - something some are talking about.

This is the start of an urban-based guerrilla war, with Reds armed with sticks, stones and firebombs. It's hard to see the Democrat Party winning any election after sending the army onto the streets.

John Le Fevre, Battle for Bangkok Photo Special, Photo Journ (70 photos)

Tamanxzg in ECT, Aerial footage of Bangkok clash, Kaatip, คนนางเลิ้งปะทะคนเสื้อแดง (Nanglerng people clash with red shirt people), Kaatip blog (2000 words, 12 photos, links to videos). English translation via google; short translation and brief commentary.

Bangkok Pundit, It begins..., Bangkok Pundit

Fonzi, CNN report on Army Crackdown, Thailand Jumped the Shark

Sunny, Thai Red Shirts Protest Videos April 2009, HaPPi like a HiPPo (videos)

More on the Bangkok Protests:

In the following posts at THERELIVE.COM, I posted longer summaries of the insights I gleaned reading Nick's incredible story, and information about other live-bloggers of the protests:

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