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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:

  • BangkokPundit
  • Categories

    Thai Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesters

    Bloomberg: Thai Police Fire Tear Gas to Disperse Protesters, Several Hurt

    Thai police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who were blocking the Parliament building to prevent Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from presenting his new administration’s policies. Dozens of people were injured.

    Thousands of Bangkok residents who have occupied the prime minister’s office since Aug. 26 moved to surround Parliament last night in a bid to stop today’s session. Somchai called on the police to ensure that lawmakers could convene, saying they were “representing the whole country.”

    AP: Police fire tear gas against crowd

    Police fired tear gas Tuesday at several thousand demonstrators attempting to block access by lawmakers to the Parliament building in the Thai capital.

    Reporters at the scene Tuesday saw at least one person injured by the gas. Sounds of gunfire were also heard but senior police officials said that only tear gas was being used against the crowd.

    “I don’t think there are many injuries,” police Maj. Gen. Viboon Bangthamai said.

    The protests are part of an effort by the People’s Alliance for Democracy to bring down the government, which it says is merely a proxy for ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006 by military leaders who accused him of corruption and who now resides in exile.

    BBC (with video): Tear gas fired at mass Thai rally

    Police in Thailand have fired tear gas to disperse a demonstration by thousands of anti-government protesters in Bangkok.

    Dozens of people were injured as police intervened in the dawn protest in front of parliament.

    The clashes came just hours before new PM Somchai Wongsawat was to deliver a key policy statement.

    The protesters say he is a proxy for ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra and want the government to resign.

    The political crisis has gripped the country for about six weeks.

    UPDATE, 8 p.m. Bangkok time:

    BBC: Thai deputy PM quits over clashes

    A senior government minister in Thailand has resigned after violent clashes between police and protesters.

    Deputy PM Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said he was stepping down to take responsibility for the clashes, which injured at least 65 people.

    The unrest came just hours before new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat delivered his inaugural speech.

    NY Times: Thai Protesters Trap Legislators

    Thousands of anti-government protesters surrounded Parliament on Tuesday, trapping hundreds of legislators, cutting off power to the building and vowing to remain until the government falls.

    Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat escaped over a back fence after delivering a policy address but other members were unable to leave, according to reporters inside the building.

    The siege escalated a six-week sit-in on the grounds of the nearby prime minister’s office that has forced the government to relocate its activities to a former international airport.

    AFP: Thai police fire tear gas at protesters

    Thai police fired tear gas Tuesday to try to disperse anti-government protesters blocking parliament, injuring 116 people as months of political turmoil boiled over, police and medics said.

    Twenty-one people suffered serious injuries, a medical official said, as police tried to disperse several thousand protesters surrounding parliament who tried to stop the first policy speech by new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

    The address went ahead, but the special session ended after two hours as protesters continued to mass outside, forcing Somchai and five ministers to climb over a fence to escape the mob, an AFP correspondent saw.

    CNN’s In the Field blog: We all scream for ice-cream

    In how many riot zones can you eat an ice-cream?

    Seriously, Bangkok this morning, was a sea of choking tear gas, baton-wielding cops, firing stun grenades, furious anti-government protesters launching rocks into the air… and ice-cream salesmen. I’m not complaining. Ice-cream, I like, I lick.

    You scream, they scream, we all scream for ice-cream, especially when the tear-gas is choking you and you need some soothing cool coconut glace down your throat.

    But it was slightly incongruous to say the least, to see cold refreshments being served amid the chaos.

    Thailand though, does a good line in juxtaposition and defying cliche. It’s a riot, but only until lunchtime, when protesters and police retreat to enjoy a fiery plate of rice and minced pork. Then it’s back to the serious business of overthrowing the government.

  • Here are my previous posts about the ongoing Bangkok protests.
  • Categories

    Thailand Update: Samak Out, State of Emergency Lifted

    Thailand Protests: Bangkok, September 2008

    It’s been less than a week since I last wrote about the protests here in Bangkok.

    A lot has happened since then.

    Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has been forced from office. Thailand’s Constitutional Court found him guilty of breaking the law by continuing to host his TV cooking show. At first, Samak’s political party, the PPP, said they’d re-nominate him for PM. Then parliament met on Friday to vote on the matter, but coalition parties and even some PPP MPs boycotted the vote. So word trickled out, late on Friday, that the PPP would nominate someone different for the post. Samak is now out.

    Meanwhile, the state of emergency has been lifted here in Bangkok. And the parliament is due to meet this week to vote on a new PM. (The caretaker PM, interestingly enough, is now the PPP’s Somchai Wongsawat, brother in law of…Thaksin Shinawatra.)

    If you’d like to see some images of the protests, here are 35 photos I’ve just posted from my visits to Government House. Demonstrators are now occupying the compound for a third week.

    Here’re the latest headlines:

    AP: “Thailand lifts emergency, citing drop in tourism”

    AFP: “Thailand lifts state of emergency”

    NY Times/IHT: “Drop in Thai tourism leads to plea for end to crisis”

    Bloomberg: “Thailand Votes on Premier This Week After Emergency Rule Lifted”

    WSJ: “Thailand’s Ruling Party Abandons Bid for Samak”


    Thai PM Quits (for now) Over Cooking Show


    Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday that the country’s prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, should resign from his post for violating the constitution by hosting a TV cooking show while in office.

    Tuesday’s ruling against Sundaravej, who has faced weeks of violent street protests, also forces the resignation of his cabinet.

    Ministers are barred from working for private companies, and Samak’s opponents filed the case hoping that a conviction will compel him to step down.

    In theory, analysts say, Samak can return as prime minister in days — if the ruling coalition nominates him again and a parliament vote is taken.

    As ever, for more info, I suggest The Nation, the Bangkok Post, and Bangkok Pundit.


    Bangkok Protests: Thursday Update

    When news spread last night that Thailand’s Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej was to give a radio address at 7:30 a.m. today, rumors swirled that he would use the occasion to announce his resignation. Instead, he refused to cave in. “Don’t even think I am going to quit,” he said. “The country needs a leader, and the world is watching us.”

    As protesters occupied Government House for the 10th straight day, Samak proposed a nation-wide referendum to find a way forward.

    The state of emergency continues, and more and more countries are warning their citizens to exercise caution here — or not to come at all. The majority of Bangkok is unaffected by the demonstrations. Still, there are concerns about what the turmoil means for the Thai tourism industry.

    Here’s a roundup of the latest media coverage:

    New York Times: “Thai Leader Promises Referendum”

    Economist: “An emergency in Thailand: The army is called in as pro- and anti-government protesters clash”

    Bloomberg: “Thailand May Miss Tourism Targets as Unrest Spurs Cancellations”

    Reuters: “Defiant Thai PM refuses to quit”

    AP: “Thai protest leader wants to reduce voters’ power”

    Wall Street Journal: “Thailand’s New (Old) Politics”

    Telegraph: “Bank steps in to support the baht as Thailand plagued by political unrest”

    Notable blog posts:

    Bangkok Pundit: “Resign, No; Dissolution, No; Referendum, Yes UPDATE”

    2Bangkok: “PAD’s ‘final war'”


    Audio Slide Show: State of Emergency in Bangkok

    Following my previous effort, here’s a 2-minute, 18-second audio slide show I put together after spending some time at Government House today. That’s where PAD protesters are demonstrating against Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Early today a protester was killed and several were seriously injured, which prompted the government to declare a state of emergency.

    Despite the fact that gatherings of more than five people have been prohibited, the protest felt much like a carnival: protesters clad in yellow — a color that represents their beloved King — stood in front of a large stage and listened to various speeches. Others relaxed under tarps and clapped, chatted, and snacked. Riot police stood by a few blocks away.

    “We are fighting against the tyranny of Thaksin and Samak,” one protester told me. “We are willing to give up our lives for freedom.”

    (Note: Those of you reading this via my rss feed will need to click through to view the slide slow on my site.)

    My audio slide show from last week can be found here.