Thai politics Thailand

Reuters on Thai troops, red shirt clashes, and civilian deaths

A Reuters story running today: “Exclusive: Probe reveals Thai troops’ role in civilian deaths”:

The Thai military played a larger role in the killing of civilians during political unrest in Bangkok this year than officials have acknowledged, leaked state documents seen by Reuters show.

A preliminary state probe into political violence in April and May concluded Thai special forces positioned on an elevated railway track fired into the grounds of a Buddhist temple where several thousand protesters had taken refuge on May 19.

Three of six people shot dead at the temple were likely killed by troops, the investigation found, directly contradicting statements by the Thai military, which has denied soldiers were responsible for the killings at the temple.


Soldiers quoted in the DSI report said they fired warning shots toward the temple and came under fire from black-clad gunmen from below and by another gunman in the temple. They said they were providing cover fire for troops on the ground, who had requested backup.


The findings seen by Reuters were contained in two DSI reports — one on the temple shootings and another on the April 10 death of Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto.

Muramoto, a 43-year-old Japanese national based in Tokyo, was killed by a high-velocity bullet wound to the chest while covering protests in Bangkok’s old quarter.

The report quoted a witness who said Muramoto collapsed as gunfire flashed from the direction of soldiers. Thailand’s government has not yet publicly released the report into his death despite intense diplomatic pressure from Japan.

(Emphasis mine.)

The Globe and Mail‘s Mark MacKinnon was at the temple (along with The Independent‘s Andrew Buncombe) that night and tweeted the following in response to the Reuters story today:

Thai report says soldiers shot at from inside temple. I saw fireworks launched towards soldiers from just outside Wat, no gunmen inside.

It was dark, I couldn’t see everything, but I walked and ran through all parts of temple several times. I saw slingshots, clubs, no guns.

Thai report revealing soldiers’ roles in Wat Pathum shootings an “official secret” – authorities refuse to confirm its authenticity…

Thai politics Thailand

Red shirts protesting here in Bangkok today


Anti-government red shirt protesters are gathering here in Bangkok today to mark the six month anniversary of the May 19 army crackdown.

The image above, taken by by @RichardBarrow and shared via Twitpic, shows the gathering at Rajaprasong intersection at 3 p.m. local time, or about 45 minutes ago.

Here’s an AFP story about what may be in store:

Thai “Red Shirts” gathered on Friday outside a Bangkok prison where the movement’s leaders are held as they began events to mark six months since a deadly army crackdown on their anti-government rally.
Police estimate that 10,000 people will take to the streets by the evening in the upmarket central shopping zone that the Reds brought to a standstill earlier this year with their campaign for snap elections.

(Emphasis mine.)

Related post: some observations and photos from the Sept. 19 Rajaprasong gathering.

I may be posting more to Twitter at @newley, and you can consult the Bangkok Post and The Nation as the day progresses.

Thai politics Thailand

A few news stories about Sunday’s red shirt protests


I’m a few days late with this, but I wanted to close the book — for now, at least — on Sunday’s red shirt protests. Here are a few news stories worth checking out:

I will be monitoring developments, naturally.

Thai politics Thailand

Update: red shirts gather here in Bangkok


An update to my previous post:

I spent several hours at Bangkok’s Rajaprasong intersection today, where thousands of red shirts gathered to mark the anniversaries of the 2006 military coup and the May army crackdown. At various times, the crowds of protesters nearly shut down the intersection, though single lanes of traffic were still able to creep through.

It was striking to see so many demonstrators back in the very place they’d occupied a few month before — and the burned portions of Central World shopping mall visible in the background, as well as an impromptu shrine to those killed in the dispersal, served as a reminder of how things ended.

A few quick observations:

  1. Many of the people with whom I spoke were surprised at how many red shirts turned out. I was expecting hundreds, not several thousand.
  2. The gathering was, in many ways, similar to the previous demonstrations in Bangkok. There was a sea of red; there was dancing and screaming and clapping; there was red shirt merchandise for sale; and — of course — there were snacks. Many snacks.
  3. All of the protesters were clearly in violation of the state of the emergency, which is still in effect here in Bangkok. That makes gatherings of more than five people illegal. The police stood by, looking on sheepishly. They were vastly outnumbered, after all.
  4. While many of the previous red shirt demonstrations had an angry feel — particularly toward the end — today’s gathering felt positive, up-beat, and lighthearted. There was some chanting against the government, but the mood today was more like: “we’re back, so let’s sing and dance — we haven’t gone away.”

For more details on what I saw, check out my Tweets from today.

And here are some images I posted to Twitpic:

Rajaprasong intersection

A T-shirt for sale

Releasing balloons

Thai politics Thailand

Red shirts gather in Bangkok


As I mentioned in my last post, Red shirt leaders have planned several events here in Bangkok and in Chiang Mai to mark the anniversaries of the 2006 military coup and the May 19 army crackdown.

Above, via Twitpic, is an image @RichardBarrow posted not long ago from Rajaprasong intersection, which the red shirts shut down during their previous protests.

Also tweeting are @Dany_k and @wayne_hay. And you can check out my Thailand Twitter list for more.

And of course, as always, I’ll be tweeting at: @newley.

Stay tuned.

Bangkok Thai politics Thailand

Red shirts to protest this weekend


Sunday, Sept. 19 is anniversary of the 2006 military coup that overthrew ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. And Thailand’s red shirts — many of whom still support the fugitive billionaire — will be rallying to mark the occasion.

WSJ: Thailand Braces for Anniversary Protests:

Thai security forces are gearing up for a weekend of antigovernment protests to mark the fourth anniversary of a military coup that ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra from power and ushered in an era of instability unparalleled in Thailand’s modern history.

Police estimate that several hundred so-called Red Shirt protesters massed at a Bangkok prison Friday morning to lay red roses at the gate of the facility and demand the release of several leaders detained on terrorism charges amid the bloody aftermath of an antigovernment rally in Bangkok in May. Organizers and authorities expect thousands more protesters to join other events around the country in the coming days as antigovernment Red Shirt protesters attempt to raise their profile after months of relative calm.


The center of the weekend’s protests is likely to be a large convoy scheduled to leave Bangkok and drive north to the city of Chiang Mai, Mr. Thaksin’s hometown, where the state of emergency already has been lifted. Organizers expect thousands of supporters to participate.

Bloomberg: Thai Opposition to Test Stability With Gatherings to Mark Coup:

Thai anti-government protesters plan to hold nationwide events this weekend to mark a 2006 military coup, testing the nation’s ability to cope with demonstrations after clashes left 89 dead four months ago.

Supporters of ousted ex-leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives overseas after fleeing a jail sentence in 2008, will lay flowers, light candles and release balloons in Bangkok, according to organizers. Protesters will also gather in Chiang Mai, Thaksin’s home province.

There’s also this, from the Bangkok Post, which includes some photos from this morning’s gathering: Authorities brace for coup anniversary rallies.

(Emphasis mine.)

Thai politics Thailand

WSJ: red shirts plan to rally Sept. 17 in Bangkok

WSJ: Red Shirts Test Thai Limits:

PATTAYA, Thailand—Four months after their marathon Bangkok street protests ended in a bloody crackdown, Thailand’s antigovernment Red Shirt protesters are testing the limits of what political and military leaders will allow, with a large fund-raising concert over the weekend in this bawdy seaside resort and another rally planned for the capital.

The movement’s leaders have set themselves a specific goal: the release of opposition activists arrested in the aftermath of May demonstrations. In their Bangkok rally, set for Sept. 17, they plan to lay red roses outside the prison where several Red Shirt leaders are held on terrorism charges. They are also encouraging supporters to stage other events to commemorate the 91 people killed during clashes between protesters and government security forces.

The story includes an image from last weekend’s Pattaya rally.

(Emphasis mine.)

(Via @terryfrd)

Thai politics Thailand

NYT: In Rural Thailand, an Unappeased Opposition Bides Its Time

A story in yesterday’s NYT: In Rural Thailand, an Unappeased Opposition Bides Its Time:

In front of the charred ruins of the municipal hall here, a huge poster carries the photographs of 76 people being sought in an attack on the building three months ago, on the day the anti-government “red shirt” protests were crushed in Bangkok. Only 11 have been caught.

Scores of people are in hiding, many of them sheltered by a mostly sympathetic population. Scores more, arrested at the scene, are being held without bail.

Here in the heart of red shirt country, the government appears to have made little headway in calming or winning over its opponents, and the arrests and detentions illustrate the continuing divisions in the country.

Worth a read.

Thai politics Thailand

Bangkok Post: Bout says MP asked how to take down Thaksin plane

Today’s Bangkok Post: Bout says MP asked how to take down Thaksin plane:


Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has confirmed that Sirichoke Sopha, a close aide to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, met him to make inquiries into how ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s plane could be brought down.

He also alleged that the MP made inquiries into whether Thaksin was involved in arms smuggling.

Mr Bout’s wife, Alla, read his statement yesterday during a press conference in Bangkok in which he proclaimed his innocence and elaborated on his discussions with Mr Sirichoke on April 15 at Bang Kwang Central Prison.

Mr Bout said no tape recording had been made of the conversation.

He claimed Mr Sirichoke asked him whether Thaksin had paid to have an aircraft smuggle arms from North Korea to Sri Lanka in December of last year, before the shipment was seized in Thailand.

Mr Sirichoke quoted a foreign news report saying that Thaksin had flown to Sri Lanka one week before the seizure.

Mr Bout alleged that Mr Sirichoke asked him whether Thaksin might have bought the weapons to arm his red shirt supporters.

Mr Bout said he told the MP that he had no knowledge of such a plan and that, “I would not like to fantasise”.

Mr Bout said Mr Sirichoke showed him a picture of a private jet and said it belonged to Thaksin. “He asked me how to intercept Thaksin’s plane,” he said.

In the statement, read in Mr Bout’s native Russian, the term intercept was meant in the sense to “bring down”.

“I told him that I could not teach him this,” Mr Bout said.

Mr Sirichoke also allegedly asked Mr Bout about the state of Thaksin’s health and why other countries were uncooperative in helping to arrest and extradite the former prime minister to Thailand.

(Emphasis mine.)

Thai politics Thailand

BBC: Thailand red shirt protesters rallying again

Here’s a BBC TV report worth checking out: “Thailand red shirt protesters rallying again

In Thailand, ‘red shirt’ anti-government protesters are beginning to gather in massive rallies again, three months after a huge street protest in Bangkok ended.

The BBC has been told some underground activists are being trained to carry out bomb attacks, despite government efforts at reconciliation with the opposition group.

The report features some interesting time-lapse footage of Bangkok, as well as some before-and-after shots of the city.

(Via @tri26.)