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Bangkok protests: shots fired

I’m looking out my window at central Bangkok. It’s the early evening, darkness has fallen, and people are heading home from work. Taxis cruise by along the road outside my window. People jog around a scenic park. And motorcycle taxi drivers ferry people about. It’s business as usual.

But sporadic violence has erupted in other parts of this massive city, where anti-government protesters and government supporters have begun battling one another.

Don’t miss this video footage from BBC/Thai PBS: “Thai protesters fire on rivals

Elsewhere:

IHT: “Shots fired as Thai factions clash at airport

Protesters blocking the main highway to Bangkok’s old airport Tuesday fired handguns and beat government supporters with metal rods in the capital, injuring six people, according to video footage shown on Thai television.

Thousands of demonstrators elsewhere across the capital kept the Thai government on the run, blocking the entrance to its temporary offices at the airport and massing in front of army headquarters. The clashes came on the second day of what protesters vowed would be their final push to unseat the government of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

On Monday they forced the cancellation of an important session of Parliament and temporarily cut the electricity supply to police headquarters.

TIME: “Viewpoint: Why Thailand’s “Final Showdown” Will Have Plenty of Sequels

Hollywood, the land of ultimate battles and last stands, doesn’t have a monopoly on dramatic endings. On Nov. 24, thousands of anti-government protesters swarmed Thailand’s parliament in what they called — drumroll please — the “final showdown.”

This was, in fact, one of several self-proclaimed final showdowns by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has long been intent on erasing from government any influence of billionaire populist Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed as Prime Minister in a 2006 army coup. After surrounding Parliament and forcing lawmakers to abandon their work, the PAD moved on to Bangkok’s old airport, where a VIP lounge now serves as the makeshift headquarters of current Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat. A brother-in-law of Thaksin, Somchai was evicted from his real office by the protesters, who have besieged Government House for the past three months.

AP/Washington Post: “Shots fired as contending Thai factions fight

Thai anti-government demonstrators fired shots at government supporters as the rival sides clashed Thursday afternoon on a major highway in the Thai capital of Bangkok.

The fighting began when government supporters began throwing rocks at a truck carrying members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy as it was returning from Bangkok’s old airport, where the group had been holding a rally.

The airport has served as temporary government headquarters since the alliance occupied the prime minister’s office in late August.

The anti-government group responded by firing slingshots and at least two pistols from their truck, and then gave chase to the attackers, who appeared to number several dozen, according to footage shown on Thai PBS television. The gunmen fired about half a dozen shots.

The men on the truck appeared by their dress _ wearing camouflage clothes and yellow armbands _ to be among the so-called guards working for the alliance, who have earned a reputation for aggressive behavior.

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Bangkok protests: analysis from Stratfor

Bangkok Protests: Stratfor Image

For some background info on the ongoing protests here in Bangkok (including a map of protest sites, above), check out this article from Stratfor: “Thailand: Tensions Reach New Heights.

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Ongoing Bangkok Protests: Monday Update

Here are some links to media coverage of the ongoing protests in Bangkok today:

IHT: “Thai protesters surround parliament

Anti-government demonstrators spread across Bangkok on Monday morning, surrounding the Parliament building and advancing on the police headquarters in what they described as a final push to unseat the government.

Officials canceled a session of Parliament scheduled for Monday after the protesters massed outside the building and the electricity was reportedly cut.

“We have agreed to cancel the session until the situation is back to normal,” Chai Chidchob, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said on Thai television.

By midafternoon, however, demonstrators had pulled back from Parliament. Instead, organizers from the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the group leading the protests, called for supporters to head to Don Muang airport, the Thai capital’s old international airport now used mostly for domestic flights.

AFP: “Thai anti-govt protesters besiege state buildings

Thousands of Thai protesters surrounded parliament Monday and besieged other state buildings in what they said would be their final battle in a six-month street campaign against the government.

Demonstrators began leaving Government House — the prime minister’s cabinet offices which they have occupied since late August — and marched towards parliament a few blocks away in Bangkok’s historic district.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said about 18,000 protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) had taken to the streets and managed to block all three roads leading to parliament.

CNN: “Protests cancel Thai parliament session

Thousands of anti-government protesters marched on Thailand’s Parliament Monday morning, causing lawmakers to postpone their session fearing violence, said House speaker Chai Chidchob.

Protesters, led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy, also surrounded Bangkok’s police headquarters and the finance ministry building.

The demonstrators brought their own guards who were armed with clubs and long wooden poles in anticipation of clashes with police and pro-government supporters.

BBC: “Thai marchers move on parliament

Thousands of demonstrators have surrounded Thailand’s parliament building, prompting the day’s parliamentary session to be cancelled.

Protesters have been occupying the government compound in the capital, Bangkok, for months.

They say their mass protest is a “final battle” to topple the government which they say is a proxy for former, exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The protesters belong to the opposition People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

The current Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, who has been attending the Asia Pacific Ecocomic Co-operation (Apec) summit in Peru has said he has no intention of resigning.

AP: “Protesters at Thai Parliament for ‘final showdown’

Thousands of anti-government protesters surrounded Thailand’s Parliament on Monday, forcing legislators to postpone a joint session, and more demonstrators rallied at other government offices in an action billed as their final bid to oust the administration.

Riot police barricaded Parliament with metal barriers and stood guard inside the compound as the protesters, who call themselves the People’s Alliance for Democracy, marched on the building, blocked its gates from the outside and cut electrical wires to create a blackout.

And finally, for some analysis, look no further than this Reuters story: “SCENARIOS — What’s in store for politically riven Thailand?

For ongoing coverage, check out Bangkok’s two English language newspapers, The Nation and the Bangkok Post. And Bangkok Pundit is posting frequently. 2Bangkok has some links, too.

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Bangkok blast kills 1, injures scores

Bangkok Post: “Bangkok Bomb

At least one anti-government protester was killed and 24 were wounded in a pre-dawn bomb blast Thursday inside a demonstration site in Bangkok, emergency services said.

The bomb went off at 3:28am in front of a stage at Government House compound, which protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have occupied since late August.

The Nation: “1 killed, 26 injured in explosion in Government House

One protester was killed and 26 other were injured when a bomb exploded inside the Government House complex in front of the main stage of the People’s Alliance for Democracy early Thursday morning.

Guards and protesters said the explosion occurred at 3:25 am, just a day after the so-called ceasefire during the royal cremation period.

Reuters: “Thai protesters blame govt for grenade attack

The leader of a long-running anti-government street protest in Thailand called for a major rally on Sunday to oust the “murderous government” after one of his supporters was killed by a grenade.

Sondhi Limthongkul accused the government of having a direct hand in the firing of the grenade in the early hours of Thursday into the Government House compound that has been occupied by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) since August.

AFP: “One killed, 22 wounded in Bangkok blast: police

One Thai protester was killed and 22 wounded Thursday in a blast at a Bangkok demonstration site, police said, raising fears that political violence is resuming after a brief lull for a royal funeral.

The explosion hit at 3:28 am (2028 GMT Wednesday) in front of a stage at the prime minister’s Government House offices, which anti-government protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have occupied since late August.

FT: “Explosion kills Thai protester

An explosion at an anti-government protest site in central Bangkok has killed one person and wounded 24 others, further raising the temperature in Thailand’s bitterly divided politics.

A device exploded just before 3.30am at Government House, which housed the offices of the Prime Minister until anti-government demonstrators occupied it in late August.

For updates on the story, as always, check out Bangkok Pundit.

And for additional info, here are my posts tagged Bangkok protests, including the audio slide show I put together back in September.

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Misc.

Bangkok Protests: Thursday Update

The clashes between police and anti-government protesters here in Bangkok on Tuesday morning left two people dead and more than 400 injured. Order has been restored, but political uncertainty remains. Here are some recent news reports:

WSJ editorial: Thailand in Turmoil

Two years after the Thai military ousted then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the full cost of that bloodless coup is finally becoming clear. Violent antigovernment protests this week have left two people dead, 443 injured, and the country’s democratic prospects in jeopardy.

The struggle is over whether Thai citizens will continue to enjoy their democratic rights. The protesters, who seek to oust the current government, have brought the government to near paralysis. The cast of characters is similar to 2006: Seven months ago the same group that had helped organize protests to oust Mr. Thaksin re-formed, led by a similar coterie of Bangkok elites, businessmen and academics.

They now call themselves the People’s Alliance for Democracy, but they are anything but. Their goal is to eliminate Thailand’s one-man-one-vote democracy and replace it with a parliament that is 30% elected and 70% appointed. Why? To make sure that no one like Mr. Thaksin is ever elected again.

NY Times: Some Thai Protest Charges Dropped

In a victory for anti-government demonstrators, a Thai appeals court on Thursday dropped charges of treason against nine protest leaders, calling the evidence against them too “vague.”

The court, however, upheld a charge of inciting unrest.

Thousands of demonstrators have barricaded themselves in the compound of the prime minister’s office for the past six weeks and shows no signs of abating.

Reuters: Thailand’s political crisis: how it might play out

Thai protesters vowed to intensify their campaign against the government on Wednesday, a day after two people died and more than 400 were injured in the worst street violence in 16 years.

The Southeast Asian nation has been locked in crisis since the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) began street protests in May, accusing the government of being a puppet of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Following are some scenarios of what might happen next, although none are likely to heal the fundamental rift between the rural and urban poor who support Thaksin, ousted in a 2006 coup, and the Bangkok middle classes who despise him…

AFP: Deadly Thai protests will shake economy: industry experts

Violent clashes between police and protesters will send shockwaves through Thailand’s economy, which is already struggling with the global financial crisis and prolonged unrest, industry experts say.

News that two people died and more than 400 were injured during protests outside Bangkok’s parliament on Tuesday could discourage foreign investors, wary since a September 2006 coup overthrew premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

For more news, go to:

  • The Bangkok Post
  • The Nation

    For ongoing links to news reports, check out:

  • 2Bangkok.com
  • BangkokPundit