Live-Blog: The Crackdown Intensifies, Seven Killed, At Least 100 Injured

Picture by @lekasina

Troops fired tear gas and bullets on Friday at anti-government protesters who responded with stones, slingshots and homemade rockets, turning central Bangkok into a battlefield as the military moved to seal off a broad area where the so-called red shirts have camped for weeks.

The sounds of gunfire and explosions could be heard at the nearby United States Embassy, which shut down and moved to evacuate employees who live near the protest area. Other embassies in the area also closed, as did schools and businesses.

The confrontations began near the spot where the shooting of an anti-government major general by a sniper on Thursday night touched off an evening of violence. The general, Khattiya Sawatdiphol, 58, had become a symbol of the lawlessness and impunity that have torn Thailand apart as the protests have pitted the nation’s poor against its establishment.

On Friday, the violence escalated, as protesters seized and vandalized several military vehicles, setting at least one truck on fire and cheering as a column of soldiers with riot shields looked on.

The television channel France 24 said one of its correspondents, Nelson Rand, was shot in the leg Friday afternoon while reporting on the unrest. A Thai photographer also was reported to have been shot. Blockades made it difficult for ambulances to enter the conflict zone.

"Troops Clash With Thai Protesters as Tension Grows", New York Times, May 14, 2010

I'll keep this post updated. Also, follow me (@Saksith), @bangkokpundit, @anasuya, @danieljrivers, @newley, @karmanomad, @vaitor, @photo_journ, @aelacallan and @aleithead on Twitter for live updates.


18:00h CEST: ThaiPBS has shown footage of a mob (not sure if they are red shirts) seizing an army truck in Din Daeng. Soldiers are being dragged out and punched by the mob, while other person try to stop them. A gunshot was heard, a soldier is then seen down and carried away into an ambulance.


17:40h CEST:

INN: Erawan Center says 7 dead from today's clashes; 101 injured at 11 different hospitals; 9 still in ICU

Tweet by @TAN_Network

Meanwhile, the Canadian embassy has been temporarily closed and the German Foreign ministry has "urgently" advised against any travel to Bangkok, but their embassy will still be open.

16:55h CEST:

Death toll rises to five, 81 injured after clashes Friday between troops, Red Shirts in Bangkok: Official Erawan emergency centre

Tweet by @MCOTEnglishnews

16:15h CEST: In a sperate development, Sondhi Limthongkul, the leader of the royalist and right-wing People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), also known as the 'yellow shirts', appeared on the PAD's news outlet ASTV after being away for months to announce that he is stepping down as leader of the New Politics Party. The PAD's political party was formed just last year. Sondhi, among other senior NPP members, will go back to the PAD. No word on what they have planned to do.

15:55h CEST: CRES has now a press conference with Satit (PM Office Minsiter), Panitan (Acting Govt spokesman) and Col. Sansern (CRES and Army spokesman). Prime minister Abhisit is notably missing.

Satit says that negotiations (on the roadmap to reconciliation) with the protest leaders have failed and claims that the red shirts are armed with weapons. He also blames (*sigh*) ousted prime minister Thaksin to be blamed for the failed conciliation thanks to his interference. The military will not attempt to regain the seized rally site, but will increase pressure until protesters disperse.

Col. Sansern describes that there is a small group of people (terrorists) within the red shirt protesters who spark trouble. Men on motorcycles were using grenades to provocate troops behind barricades. Live rounds were only used in self-defence. He also blames the media for only showing soldiers firing on protesters and not the other way around. Some terrorists were using M79 grenade launchers and M16 assault rifles. Initially, the authorities have the situation under control.

Panitan summarizes everything that was said in English, adds that they'll increase to seal off the rally site in order to stop more protesters from elsewhere joining them.

15:20h CEST:

BANGKOK, May 14 (Reuters) - A Thai policeman fired bullets at soldiers during clashes between the army and anti-government protesters in central Bangkok on Friday, a Reuters witness said.

The policeman stood in front of the Lumpini police station and fired a handgun towards troops trying to seal off the area leading to an encampment occupied by the demonstrators.

"Thai policeman seen firing at troops in Bangkok - witness", Reuters, May 14, 2010

15:15h CEST: Government spokesperson Panitan appeared on CNN. He will also appear on BBC World News at this moment ad there'll be an English statement by the government at 20:30h local tonight.


15:00h CEST:

"Most ironic photo so far - The poster reads "Meet the only new experience you can find in Thailand"" (Picture by @idongphoto via @tulsathit)

14:50h CEST: Meanwhile, two more casualties are being reported. Four deaths total today.

14:45h CEST:

INN: Attack on Ratchprasong stage, more than 10 injured

Tweet by @TAN_Network

ThaiPBS and TNN24 have shown footage of people running and ducking for cover at the rally stage. TNN24 suggests that probably a sniper has attempted to shoot red shirt leader Jatuporn, but he escaped unharmed.

14:11h CEST: Large explosions were reported at the BTS Sala Daeng station. The same spot has been hit by M79 grenades a few weeks ago, killing one anti-red shirt protester.

ThaiPBS evening news now shows footage of the clashes so far, including some apparently random arrests. BBC correspondent Alastair Leithead has tweeted this picture from the scene.

13:50h CEST: A second person has been killed. The Nation reports that the incident happened at Bonkai intersection.

Security forces will not try to disperse red-shirt protesters from their Ratchaprasong rally site today, Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesman of the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES), said on Friday afternoon.

His statement came after troops clashed with red-shirts on the fringes of the protest site, which led to several injuries.

"We haven't thought about dispersing them from the area today," Col Sansern told reporters.

He called on the protesters to leave the rally site and end the protest, saying that there is still time to return home.

Col Sansern also said that army chief Anupong Paojinda had assessed the situation and believed there could be attempts to incite unrest tonight.

"The army chief has told us to protect our lives and not to hurt the people," he said.

If necessary, soldiers may have to use live rounds in self defence, he said.

"CRES: No crackdown on reds today", Bangkok Post, May 14, 2010

13:30h CEST: The situation is very chaotic, as there are clashes and firefights at many spots around the sealed off area including Rama IV Road, Din Daeng and Dusit/Silom Intersection.

The army is using live rounds and are shooting on the protesters.

Meanwhile at the main rally stage at Rajaprasong, music is being played and the red shirt leaders have issued these five demands.

The red-shirt leaders Friday announced they would no longer compromise with the government and toughened their demands for the administration to comply with.

The red-shirt leaders demanded Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to meet the five demands as following:

1) The government must cease fire immediately.

2) The government must withdraw troops immedidatetly.

3) The government must lift the state of emergency immediately.

4) The House must be dissolved immediatley.

5) Abhisit and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsubanmust resign and must not be in the caretaker Cabinet.

"Red shirts toughen demands", May 14, 2010