Bangkok Burning: More Bullets, Smoke, Burnt Tires, Mystery Snipers & M79s

UPDATE (28 May)

I think I lost my mojo (if I ever had any).

Really, since the last updates I’ve gone through all kinds of emotions, except happiness, hope and joy. In the past week and a half, I have been stunned, angry, sad, surprised, demoralized, furious, dejected, and I don’t think I’ve counted them all. I might have laughed many times but they were ironic laughs, not happy ones. Also quite uncharacteristic of me, I was also often speechless.

I lost my will to tease  coherently in long prose on this blog. So I went on to make new friends and rant in bits of 140 characters on Twitter (@Thai_Talk), which is serving my intellectual and emotional state quite well for now.

Given that I’m bereft of long speeches, here is a brief summary of important things that have happened since the last updates.

  • On May 18 key Red shirt leaders surrendered themselves to the police and called the end to the Red shirt protests. The Red shirt protesters were clearly unhappy about their leaders’ decision and the so called “hardcore” Red members reportedly went on to “fight” the troops, burn tires and torch Bangkok, as we have seen in the news.
  • Bangkok was burned obviously, but not all of Bangkok, “just” in 36 locations. The most severe fires were in Siam Square (taking down the old Siam Theater and a few other buildings and businesses) and the second-largest mall in Asia, Central World (CTW) which was burned down to ashes. Bangkok streets have been cleaned up.
  • Burning also spread to outside of Bangkok. City halls and local government TV stations were torched in major provinces like Chiang Mai, Ubon, Udon, Khon Kaen.
  • 50+ people killed since May 13, making a total of 88 death toll including April 10 crackdown of Red protests in Bangkok – of this number most were Red protesters, many were believed to be innocent bystanders; among the dead were 9 soldiers (5 killed earlier on April 10), 2 policemen, 4 medics, and 2 foreign journalists  (1 killed on April 10). (see a detailed spreadsheet of verified dead with news sources & identified causes of death, by Rikker Dockum here)
  • Thailand was and still is under State of Emergency, and curfews have been imposed in Bangkok and 23 other provinces. The last time Thais lived under curfews was in 1992 (the “Black May” in which 52 people were killed and at least 100 missing during May 17-20 military crackdown of protesters).
  • 500+ people were arrested for breaking the curfews in Bangkok. Scores were also reportedly arrested in some provinces. Most arrested were given a 2-year probation, instead of serving 2 months prison term and 2,000 bath fine.
  • More Red protest leaders, but not all,  surrendered (at different times, often in groups of 2-3). They are now held in custody under the emergency decree (which allows the government to hold them without charge up to 30 days). Besides violations of emergency decrees and a few other minor charges, they are (to be) charged with terrorism – a charge they vow to fight against.
  • A terrorism charge has been made against former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who is now residing (as a naturalized citizen) in Montenegro. The Thai government says he was bank-rolling the Red shirt “terrorists.”
  • An academic, a history professor Suthachai Yimpraset of Chulalongkorn University, was arrested a couple of days ago but has not been charged with any crime, although authorities said the arrest was “to prevent him from instigating acts of terrorism.” He has been held in solitary confinement in an army camp in Saraburi. A diabetic, he has reportedly gone on hunger strike for having been denied access to books he wanted to read to prepare lectures for his students. Prof. Suthachai was named in the so-called CRES “Mind Map”, a convoluted diagram of names and connections of people who, according to CRES, are in the secret “Networks to topple the monarchy.”

That’s all for now, folks. I hope to be more cheery next time.

UPDATES (15-17 May 2010)

Too much has happened and I’m not in the frame of mind to write any coherent article, so here are some news reports and accounts of events in the past three days (15-17 May) that I’ve picked, worth checking out, if you haven’t already. (*A few picks added on May 17th are  in RED. Sorry, I couldn’t keep up and post them all here as there are too many. Check the usual sources, CNN, BBC, Spielgel, France 24 and all other big ones. Key news for the night of May 16th was that Dusit Thani Hotel came under fire. About 100 journalists and hotel staff took refuge in hotel basement. One navy was shot in the head, killed, making the first death on the authority side.)


As of 20:30 hr Monday, May 17th: death toll 35 (34 civilian, 1 soldier), 271 injured (3 in ICU). Note that this are figures reported by Bangkok EMS. Some suspect actual casualties may be higher but there is as yet no solid proof to lend credence to the suspicion.

Bangkok Dangerous Map: to check for the Hot Spots to avoid in inner Bangkok

Official casualties statistics by ศูนย์เอราวัณ (Bangkok EMS): (information in Thai) Number of death and injured, providing list of names & basic info for the injured, e.g. which hospital they have been sent to and whether they have been admitted (regular or ICU), transferred or released

(Added 17 May)

SPECIAL OF THE DAY>> Thai Rath ไทยรัฐ [in Thai]: ‘แดง’ ทุบสถิติทุกประวัติศาสตร์การชุมนุมไทย (Reds broke records in Thai rally history)

  • มีการเจรจาระหว่างแกนนำกลุ่มผู้ ชุมนุมกับรัฐบาลเพื่อร่วมหาข้อยุติ ซึ่งหน้าประวัติศาสตร์เมืองไทย จะไม่ค่อยเห็นระดับผู้นำประเทศยอม “ลดตัว” (Negotiations between rally leaders and the government to find resolutions unprecedented in Thai history, in which national leaders normally don’t “condescend” to do such things.)
  • มีการปะทะกันระหว่างเจ้าหน้าที่กับ กลุ่มผู้ชุมนุม (หรือผู้ที่ติดอาวุธแฝงในที่ชุมนุม) ครั้งใหญ่ที่สุดหลังมีปรากฏการณ์ปราบคอมมิวนิสต์ Largest clashes between authorities and protesters since the suppression of communist insurgents  {or armed individuals who infiltrated the protests})
  • มีแกนนำเรียกร้องทางการเมืองถูก ดำเนินคดีมากที่สุด (Largest number of political leaders facing legal prosecution)
  • มีการใช้ อาวุธสงครามมากที่สุด โดยเฉพาะอย่างยิิ่ง ระเบิด M 79 เรียกว่า “ยิงรายวัน” (Highest number of war weapons used “daily” especially M79 grenades)
  • มีผู้ชุมนุมและ แกนนำทำผิดกฎหมายมากที่สุดโดยการยึดรถ ยึดอาวุธ (Highest number of protesters and leaders committing illegal acts, e.g. vehicle hijacking, weapon seizures [from authorities])
  • มีการชุมนุมที่สร้างผลกระทบให้กับภาคธุรกิจ (Rallies have severely affected the business sector)
  • มีการต่อสู้ของผู้ชุมนุมกับเจ้า หน้าที่ โดยใช้อาวุธหลากหลายชนิด โดยเริ่มตั้งแต่ หนังสติ๊ก, ลูกแก้ว, น็อต, หัวตะปู, บั้งไฟ, พลุ, ตะไล, โคมลอย, ไม้, เหล็ก, เหล็กปลายแหลม, และระเบิดเพลิง (Diversity of weapons protesters used to fight with authorities, including slingshots, glass balls, knots, nails, fire rockets, fireworks, sky rockets, hot air balloons, sticks, irons, sharpened irons, firebombs) <<methinks, Daily News forgot tires and matches, bamboo sticks, bottles, rocks, etc.
  • มีการสั่งปิดเว็บไซต์ออนไลน์มากที่สุดเท่าที่มีการดำเนินการบริการด้าน เทคโนโลยีสารสนเทศ (Highest number of websites closed down)
  • ท้ายที่สุด[อาจ]จะมี “ผู้เสียชีวิต” มากที่สุด (Eventually – it is speculated – possibly the highest death toll) <<this one may be a bit hyperbolic methinks

YouTube: video showing 10 minutes of Red-supporting crowds at Victory Monument on May 16th, in rage that soldiers did not allow those short in Soi Rang Naam to be transported out; finally police escorted Rescue van inside to retrieve the victims; crowds loudly shouting “Abhisit get out!”

CNN iReport: “Baby used as Human Shield by Reds” (controversial clip taken in new hot spot: Rama 4 – Klong Toey)

Daily Mail:“The moment Thai Red Shirt protesters ‘used a child as a human shield’ as country teeters on brink of civil war”

Bangkok Post: Account of today’s story adapted for those wanting to learn Thai

Federico Ferrera: How liberal democratic countries deal with violent mob

Some Blogs Providing Good Daily Summary, Information & Analysis


Bangkok Pundit

Political Prisoners in Thailand (now blocked by CRES, 26 May)

New Mandala (best features are comments)

The Thai Report

Red Rumblings Outside Bangkok*(updated)

Anger in the Northeast

Red Rally in Ubon Ratchathani

นปช.เชียงใหม่ ระดมพลเตรียมร้อง UN(16 May) (Reds in Chiang Mai calling for UN intervention)

แดง เมืองชลฯ ปิดสี่แยกท่าเรือแหลมฉบัง (17 May) (Reds in Chonburi rallying in Laem Chabang, blaming media for false information that they would set fire to oil refinery)

Twitter @karmanomad: 1,000 reds in front of khon kaen provincial hall, ”much anger” says eyewitness.

THAI TV>>Check out Thai PBS online (live streaming), which is the only free Thai TV channel that covers the crisis consistently (and least biased)

New Reports & First-Hand Accounts (15-16 May)


Guardian: “Redshirts warn of civil war as Thai troops told to shoot on sight” by Ben Doherty

New Mandala: “Nick Nostitz in the killing zone” (a personal account of a journalist got caught and shot in Soi Rang Naam near Victory Monument in Bangkok on May 15th) ****MUST READ


YouTube: video showing 4.5 minutes of the incident described by Nick Nostitz above

Der Spiegel: another account by Spiegel’s Thilo Thielke who was in the same incident “Bangkok droht der Bürgerkrieg” (in German, lots of very good pictures)

CNN: “On the scene: Bangkok at boiling point” by Sara Sidner (15 May)

CNN: “Thai government to impose curfew in Bangkok” (16 May – though the government decided not to impose curfew after all)

BBC: “Thai government sets new ultimatum in Bangkok protests”

HRW: Human Rights Watch told Thailand to “Revoke Life Fire Zone in Bangkok: Abide by UN Principles on Use of Force and Firearms”

AP: “Thai PM defends deadly army crackdown in Bangkok”

Bangkok Post: “27 reds imprisoned for 6 months”

Bangkok Post: “PM: Military operations to continue”

A lot of women, children and elderly at Rajprasong protest site, see some pictures here and here. In the afternoon of May 16th, Red leaders said anyone wishing to leave protest could leave and most of women, elderly and children (as well as vendors selling stuffs to protesters) left, according to Thai PBS broadcast.  <<UPDATE: May 17, turned out not many left:  some media & commentators said they did not get full information from government – some women, even those with young children said they’d rather die than leaving; many feared they would be shot on spot by soldiers if they left

TIME: “Bracing for a Protest’s Denouement” by Robert Horn (good background & pictures)

TIMES ONLINE: “Army brings death and carnage to the streets” by Sian Powell (see comments also)


Some Thai-language reports during 15-16 May 2010

มติชน : M.79ถล่มสน.ลุมพินี7-8ลูกหัวค่ำ ยิงสนั่น-ตูมตามใจกลางกรุง ทหารรุกหนักล้อมประชิด สรุปยอดตายทะลุ22ศพ


ข่าวสด: สื่อนอกแพร่ภาพยิงสยอง ศพเกลื่อนรางน้ำดินแดง

Video on (Red Shirt) UDD facebook page, providing accounts of local residents in Din Daeng area & inside view in the live fire zone

ไทยรัฐ: “นักข่าวหนีกระเจิง หวั่นรุนแรง แกนนำถกเครียด” (picture of Red-shirt protesters, mostly women, at Rajaprasong, standing to royal anthem)

ไทยรัฐ: “หนุนกดดันคืนพื้นที่ ปชช.เห็นด้วย วอนรัฐ-นปช.เจรจา”

6 responses to “Bangkok Burning: More Bullets, Smoke, Burnt Tires, Mystery Snipers & M79s

  1. Fabulous list Kaewmala. Not being in a right frame of mind is something I can understand. The latest political doings have taken over both our blogs. Yes?

  2. It is just horrible what happens in Thailand I was there two years ago and it was great. So I think this demonstrations have a really bad influence on the economie and especially the tourism.

  3. hi Kaewmala i chanced upon your blog and spent the past 6 hours devouring everything from the very first post to the end cos i couldn’t stop loll. you’re a wonderful writer. i hope you keep writing.. im a big fan

  4. Sawasdee kap, Kewmala. I discovered this site by accident.
    I am in love with Thailand for many years. I have visited 10, 12 times, I’ve lost count. Bangkok and Pattaya only. Much, much more to learn of course. But … I have begun to “de-code” the magic of Thailand. I suspect I may have taken a birth, or many births, in Thailand. I wept when the riots were happening. And, I was happy that the fires of insanity and “patriotism” were at least cooled, some. I understand the complexity of the on-going socio-political problems that dear Thailand faces.
    My best regards,
    Sam McNally, Australia.

  5. Pingback: Thousands Rally in Ubon | FrontPageSearch·

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