Reports are coming in of large troop movements towards the rally site, after there was yet another rumor by the red shirt protesters that there might a crackdown at 5 AM this morning.
Thai protest leader expects battle as army troops gather near protest site - Reuters
More updates as they come!
For all the latest in this rapidly changing situation, follow me (@Saksith), @bangkokpundit, @anasuya, @danieljrivers, @newley, @karmanomad, @vaitor, @photo_journ, @Journotopia, @aelacallan, @agnesdherbeys, @BKKApologist, @markmackinnon and @aleithead on Twitter for live updates.
Also check this map of dangerous zones in Bangkok which will be constantly updated by Richard Barrow, AVOID THE RED AND GREEN AREAS AT ALL COST.
Feel free to comment and post footage you found online, took yourself. You can send them in to saksith [dot] saiyasombut [at] gmail [dot] com
All times local Bangkok time
21.17h: Last update for today: I think after such an extraordinary terrible day, we all need to sit down and come to our senses for a while. I'll sure do after blogging about this for 16 straight hours.
Good Night and stay safe, Bangkok!
P.S.: Here's something to laugh in these difficult times, courtesy of NotTheNation.
20.55h: As of now, there are still major fires in various spots in Bangkok, most prominently the Central World shopping center.
Also, one red shirt leader, Dr. Weng Tojirakarn, is still missing and another one on the run, Arisaman Pongruangrong, has been reported to be arrested.
Today, six people have died including one Italian photo-journalist. The total death toll since Thursday is 42, 361 injured.
The curfew is still going until 6 AM the next morning.
20.00h: The curfew is now in effect until 6 AM in all of Bangkok and in a few provinces. 21 additional provinces are now under curfew, including Chiang Mai.
The Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) has announced curfew in Bangkok and nearby cities and provinces in the North and Northeast [Mukdaharn and Kalasin] earlier placed under emergency law.
People in areas under curfew are not allowed to leave their homes from 8pm to 6am, with immediate effect.
"Curfew in Bangkok, many provinces", Bangkok Post, May 19, 2010
18.15h: After the national anthem at 6 PM, many free tv channels have now switched to the special emergency broadcast by the government. So far, it plays patriotic music and old CRES announcements.
17.47h: Central Word, the largest shopping mall in Thailand, is still well on fire. (Picture by @vaitor)
central world fire progressively worse, [no] firefighters, at this rate it has had it..
17.26h: "Burnt remains of Ubon govt building ศาลากลางอุบลเหลือแต่ซาก เสา" (Picture by @dudesweet)
17.09h: Govt spokesman appeared in yet another CRES announcement, urging all people to stay inside during the curfew (8PM-6AM), so that officials can work more effectively. Also, all TV channels will broadcast a special emergency broadcast - meaning the govt will take over the program.
Provincial Hall Udon Thani is toast - completely destroyed - will need rebuild
16.37h: The Rajaprasong stage, one hour ago... (Picture by @markmackinnon)
16.11h: CRES has just announced a curfew beginning 8 PM until 6 AM.
16.04h: Meanwhile, Channel 3 gone off air as their building is being besieged by a mob outside. Also, Bangkok Post, The Nation and Thai-Asean Network have now closed and sent their staff home. Also, journalists and photographers are being hassled and even attacked as they retreat and also take off their green press armbands.
16.01h: A sidenote: Prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has not been seen publicly all day yet...!
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rrKPyLm-Gw&w=600&h=360]The scene at Udon Thani, as protesters storm the city hall
15.25h: It is reported that the stock exchange is now on fire. Also, the Channel 3 building is being attacked by an "angry mob".
Italian media have named as Fabio Polenghi as the photo-journliast shot and killed in clashes Wednesday between Thai troops and demonstrators in Bangkok.
The reporter was identified by a friend from television images as Polenghi, the ANSA newsagency reported.
The 45-year-old Milan-based Polenghi was reportedly in Thailand on assignment for several magazines.
"Italian reporter killed in Bangkok clashes", Deutsche Presse-Agentur via The Nation, May 19, 2010
2:21pm: Thai security forces have ended their offensive at a sprawling protest encampment in central Bangkok and the situation is under control, the army spokesman said on Wednesday.
5 leaders Jatuporn, Natthwut, Kwanchai, Nisit, and Wiphuthalang have turned themselves in to police. Weng, Suporn and Arisman on the run.
Tweet by @veen_NT
14.00h: CRES is now doing a TV announcement. Army spokesman Col. Sansern describes how the operation and the reclaiming of Lumphini Park took place.
Meanwhile, it appears that the last remaining protesters have set the Eastern barricades at Ploen Chit on fire. Al Jazeera's Aela Callan reports in front of a huge smoke cloud just outside Maneeya Building, where she (and many other foreign journalists) are located as BTS Chidlom seems also covered in smoke.
13.47h: While the main rally site at Rajaprasong is now evacuated, there are still other small stages at various spots in the city, with the largest located in Khlong Toei. Will the dispersed protesters meet up here?
13.37h: Chaotic scenes at the main rally stage, as the crowd cries in disbelief over the surrender speech by red shirt leaders Jatuporn and Nattawuth as it was cut short by loud bangs, possibly gunfire. The leaders were rushed off the stage by security guards. Last words were calling for all protesters to evacuate to the National Stadium, where authorities have set up buses to bring them home.
13.26h: Red leaders Jatuporn and Nattawuth are on the stage at the main rally site and have announced to surrender and report themselves to the police.
12:56pm: Thick black smoke coming out near the Asok intersection, tyres burning near the intersection as well as in front of the Sheraton hotel.
Picture by @lindavanderwijk
12.46h: Talking about unconfirmed reports on the red leaders...
Senator Lertrat: UDD leader Jatuporn will surrender to authorities at National Police HQ at 3pm in attempt to end clashes, loss of life
12.41h: Also still unconfirmed and conflicting are the reports on the whereabouts of the red shirt leaders, the yellow shirts's news outlet ASTV and their English-language sister channel Thai-Asean News Network are reporting that Arisman, one of the hardliners has fled. Govt spokesperson has earlier claimed "all red shirt leaders" have fled.
12.35h: There are still unconfirmed reports about the 3 shot journalists, one of them is reported death.
10.40h: Govt spokesperson Panitan makes another CRES announcement, declaring that Lumphini Park has been reclaimed and also states that some red shirt leaders were fleeing, requests citizens to call police if they spot them. Also, there are busses parked at the National Stadium that are ready to take any protester home that wants to.
(AP) Update: AP photographer sees 3 foreign journalists shot during Bangkok army operation, 1 appears dead.
Tweet by @babyfishie Thanyarat Doksone
Two bodies of civilians were found on Rachadamri Road in the protesters' encampment after troops broke through their barricades, said a Reuters witness. It appeared the protesters had suffered gunshot wounds.
"Two people killed as Thai troops and protesters clash", Reuters, May 19, 2010
A branch of Thailand's Kasikornbank was on fire in Rama IV road in central Bangkok on Wednesday, Thai television reported, as anti-government protesters and troops fought nearby.Protesters were seen burning tyres and gunfire could be heard from the area.
"Thai Kasikornbank branch on fire in Bangkok -TV", Reuters, May 19, 2010
11.03h: BBC and AP report that witnesses "have seen bodies of two men with bullet wounds".
10:37am: Thai Kasikornbank branch on fire in Bangkok in Rama IV road in central Bangkok on Wednesday, Thai television reported.
10.25h: Al Jazeera was live on air when troops, APCs and also members of the press are entering the rally site after the barricade has been flattened at the Silom site.
Senator Lertrat Rattavanich on Wednesday called off the Senate's involvement in the mediation to mend fences between the government and the red shirts.
"I will not today convey the message from the red shirts to the government because it is too late as decision has been made to disperse the protesters," he said.
Lertrat said the government might have no other option but to use force to disband the rally site after giving the red shirts plenty of time to end their protests.
"Senate cancels mediation talks", The Nation, May 19, 2010
One red-shirt protester was shot dead at Sarasin intersection on Wednesday morning, reports said.
Wattanachai Aiumnak was shot in the chest and died at the scene. His body was now being kept at the Police General hospital.
One red-shirt told reporters that he believed Wattanachai was shot by a sniper hiding somewhere near Lumpini Park, not by soldiers stationing at the Saladaeng intersection.
Pol Lt Gen Jongjate Aaojenpong, senior medical doctor at the Police General Hospital, said in a television interview that four injured red-shirt protesters were admitted to the hospital.
"Two of them were shot in the chest and stomach and now receiving a surgery" he said.
"Red shot dead at Sarasin intersection", Bangkok Post, May 19, 2010
9.39h: Govt spokesperson Panitan just appeared on TV in the first CRES announcement and spoke in English that citizens are instructed to avoid the conflict areas, as the authorities are pushing forward to the rally site.
9.33h: Pictures of flattened barricades at Sala Daeng:
Picture by Reuters
Picture by @thidarat
UPDATE 9.08h: APCs at Sala Daeng (Picture by @vaitor)
UPDATE 8.59h: APCs are repeatedly ramming the bamboo barricades, e.g. this screencap from Thai TV (by @RichardBarrow)
Gun battle at Lumpini. Filmed black shirts with assault rifles firing at troops in park. At least 5 protesters injured.
The government is determined to disperse the rally today and the only option left for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leaders is to surrender and enter the justice process, prime minister's secretary-general Korbsak Sabhavasu said in a television interview on Wednesday morning.
Mr Korbsak said talks between the government and the UDD to be mediated by Senate Speaker Prasobsuk Boondej has been completely ruled out now that government forces are determined to disperse the protesters.
What the protesters should do now is to stop burning and surrender, he said.
"Korbsak: Govt determined to end rally", Bangkok Post, May 19, 2010
UPDATE 8.45h: From Reuters' live-blog
More news on the two people who were shot. Reuters witness said one was shot in the chest while trying to help a fellow protester. The demonstrators responded by firing at soldiers.
8:42am: "We are still ready to talk. My line is open but the protest has to end first," government advisor Korbask Sabhavasau told Channel 3 television.
UPDATE 8.36h: Unconfirmed reports claim that at least two people have been shot. Meanwhile, it seems that the situation has clam down for now at Silom.
UPDATE 8.20h: Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay reports via phone from Rama IV Road, gunfire can be heard. He also says that gunshots are "being fired back from the barricade."
The website of Matichon newspaper quoted officials at the underground train that a group of black-clad men were trying to set fire at the Kloen Toei station by smashing the windows and pouring gasoline but managed to stop them earlier this morning
APC approaches Sala Deang bunker; fire exchanged
Tweet by @TAN_Network
Update: Thai troops fire guns into encampment of protesters in central Bangkok - AP
Tweet by @BreakingNews
UPDATE 7.25h: Screengrab of Al Jazeera
7:22am: Reuters report on the tear gas fired at protesters. Witness said the tear gas was aimed at demonstrators close to the Rama IV statue in front of Lumpini park
UPDATE 7.07h: Al Jazeera, CNN and ThaiPBS show smoke throughout Bangkok. Also, CNN's Dan Rivers has spotted 'men carrying guns, could be soldiers'.
UPDATE 7.00h: This picture is linked from Reuters' live-blog. The sign reads 'Dusit Thani Hotel' and is right at the Silom Intersection opposite of the South end red shirt barricade.
SEVEN armored vehicles and at least two vanloads of troop reinforcements have converged at the perimeter of an anti-government protest camp in Bangkok.
The armored personnel carriers (APCs) had machine guns mounted on top, and the troops were dressed in balaclavas and carried weapons and riot shields, an AFP photographer said.
Thailand's army spokesman declined to comment on whether a crackdown was imminent on the protesters, who are defying a Monday deadline to disperse after occupying Bangkok's main retail district for six weeks.
"I will not answer any questions," spokesman Sunsern Kaewkumnerd told AFP.
"Troops, armored vehicles move in on Thailand Red Shirt protests", by David Williams, The Daily Telegraph via heraldsun.com.au
"several buildings in dindaeng set on fire" (Picture by @vaitor)
UPDATE 6.40h: CRES is airing a taped announcement from yesterday, saying that all new protest sites that have been set up outside the main rally site are deemed illegal, as is the main one itself. Also, the selling of used tires is declared illegal, since they are used in burning barricade in order to create smokescreen.
Why are they interrupting the live program right now with a repeat announcement?!
Thai army calls on protesters to leave protest site immediately over loudspeakers - Reuters witness
APCs moving in to Sala Daeng (Picture by @tidarat)