May 18th, 2010
11:45 PM ET

Bangkok waits to see who blinks

Dozens of troops waited in alleyways before dawn preparing to make a move toward the protesters. The government had warned the Red Shirts on Monday to get out by 3 p.m. local time.

On Monday the crackdown never surfaced. Then a glimmer of hope: The streets were relatively quiet as talk of negotiations surfaced on Tuesday, giving weary Bangkok residents a bit of hope this would be resolved soon and peacefully.

That didn't happen.

And then on Wednesday at first light came a flurry of activity. Soldiers moved on the streets, weapons in hand. Some hid behind trees, while others crouched crouch in nearby bushes.

Then, in single file, they moved. We watched as they passed the U.S. Embassy, helmets bouncing as they picked up the pace. They ran toward the area where anti-government protesters have created a large encampment for the past six weeks.

A couple hours later came the sound of blasts and rapid gunfire in the center of the city. The protesters have refused to leave and the government wants them out. Armored personnel carriers lurched onto the street. Tanks bashed through some of the barricades made of tires and sharpened bamboo sticks.

The protesters don't budge but the troops don't push all the way in, either. Bangkok waits to see which side will blink first.

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Filed under: Thailand
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Sungsit

    New's updating!! Red's leaders are surrender.Then Mr.Arissama was arrested at Plenjit's station in bangkok.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Rolf

      but hte terrorists are burning Bankok

      May 19, 2010 at 6:02 am | Report abuse |
  2. khunya

    Abphisit may have won the battle in BKK. But he won't be able to control every province specially in the north and northeast. the Reds are moving out of BKK and back to their hometown and will start unrest there which actually has already happened. the only way out for the government is to comply to their own word, announcing and reconfirm the date of new election asap.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. The Truth

    Rolf, Abhisit may have been elected by the parliament, but this was only after the removal of the heads of the leading (and thus government) party. Therefore, it does not reflect the will of the people as expressed at the last election held in Thailand (now about 6 years ago). However, if you are interested, as I am, in seeing the will of the Thai people respected, then you will agree that a fresh election will do just that.

    As things stand, an unelected government is denying its citzens the right to vote, and now that they have protested, this dictatorship is turning its guns on them with lethal force. Compare that with the leniency that the yellow shirt (now government people) were dealt with with they shut down the main airport.

    This highlights how downtrodden the rural and working class poor in Thailand feel. Only 2% of the people in Thailand control 80% of GDP. Thaksin is a very flawed person, but he gave these people hope of living better lives, and the elite and its illegitimate government is so out of touch that, in the three and a half years they have been in power, rather than offer the workiing class similar benefits (as would happen in any other democracy), they simply tell them to shut up and go home, and offer absolutely nothing. And when they don't do that immediately, the final insult is that they show how disposable their lives are by setting the Thai army on to them.

    The Thai people, ALL Thai people, should be allowed to solve their own, internal problem, and this can only be done by calling fresh elections, thus giving voice to the will of the people.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Rolf

      I agree with you in many points.
      But think about these facts.
      1. Thaksin has stolen a lor of money from thai people. He started to weaken democracy
      2. Elecetions will be made regularely next year. The current parliament was elected by Thai people and this parliament elected Abhisit
      3. problem never can be resolved by violence. Many red shirts had been peaceful. But unfortunately the the radicals dont want peace. There was an agreement for elections this year. But the radicals have other interests.
      4. dealing of yelow shirts was not ok. But they had no grenades and other arms. Theay ended their action peacefully and did not burn down anything.
      5. The sovial problem in Thailand has to be resolved. But not by violence

      May 19, 2010 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. The Truth

    1. Thaksin stole no more nor less money than all the other politicians in Thailand; the difference is that he dared give it to people that no-one had previously worried about, i.e. the poor, rural masses. Not that I'm a fan of Thaksin – quite the opposite. And I don't think that you can argue he weakened democracy; that has been done by the present government, first by overthrowing an elected government, and second by not having timely elections. If the current govt had any respect for democracy, they would offer the people the same benefits that Thaksin did. This is common practice in democracies; if one side offers something that large numbers of voters want, then the other side must do the same, or lose the election. However, rather than do that, this govt has simply said, we won't do that, we'll just suspend democracy. And, as I've alluded to, the contempt they hold the rural poor in is illustrated by the fact that it has not even occurred to them to offer them anything.

    2. There is no way you can say this parliament and government represents the votes or the will of the people as expressed in the last held election in Thailand, despite your attempted explanation. The current govt is a product of a military coup. Simple.

    3. You're right about violence not being the correct way to solve a problem, but you have to admit that these protests by Red Shirts have been going on for months, if not years, and have been almost completely non-violent until very recently. This is when it became clear that the government was not willing to give these people any kind of democratic voice at all. When you take away people's democratic power, violence often ensues, and ironically, it is the people who have taken away their democratic voice who are now blaming them. And, in the end, just what is it that the Red Shirts want?

    They simply want to vote.

    4. True, the yellow shirts did not descend into violence, but their protests were over a much shorter time period because the military stepped in and overthrew the govt. We can only speculate what would have happened had there protests spanned not just a few months, but 3 and a half years.

    5. 100% correct. Don't solve the problem with violence. Let the people vote. In every news interview from now on, the first question that should be asked of the current Thai govt is 'When are you having elections?'

    May 19, 2010 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Rolf

      Yes. in part you are right, I also think that(nearly)all politicians are corrupt. in all countries. But Taksin has stolen several billions os US-$.(x.000.000.000 $, x may be 3 or 7 or even 12) Never before a poltician has stolen so much.
      I repeat: there WAS an AGREEMENT to make elections this year, which the peaceful leaders of redshirts agreed. But the radicals didnt want a peaceful agrrement. So some peaceful leaders left the "demonstration". And the radical leaders dont want a peaceful solution. They are like terrorists in Irak, Afganistan Nord Ireland. ................................................
      And with terrorist is not possible to negociate.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  5. kym

    I'm very impressed with the peaceful way Thais are discussing both sides in this column. I'm sad that such a wonderful country is having this problem, but am confident that their wonderful people will restore peace and equality within a few years.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. Bangkok Citizen

    Kent: I fully agreed with you, and shame on some Thais that blame you.
    These guys have the hate on Thaksin and push anybody that disagreed with them to be enemy
    You can see those dead protester fighted with bare hand, some only grab stone or wood, they all call terrorist and kill them brutaly.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bangkok Citizen

    Government stunned that why they fired many people but still generate more and much much more people go out to fight with army.
    You know why, because they all underestimated that these people were all bought by Thaksin money.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. MML

    Thailand has needed real democratic reforms for years, no matter how "benevolent" ruling juntas have been. It's sad that the issue wasn't addressed until the frustrations reached this level. I wonder if it's not too late?

    May 19, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. little Red

    i'm agree with the Red to fight for "Single Standard" not "Double Standard" but not agree with them about to hostage people and business in bkk. Not mention about Thaksin, did u people happy to see the government promoted the man who held hostaged the airport to become the Minister?( he supposed to called "terrorist" accually)

    Bangkok people or high educated people alway judge most of the farmers can be bought by money but the percentage of their vote are the lowest. They refuse the majority vote from the farmers.

    During and before the mini civil war, the government has blocked all media+website whose againts them. There was only 1 way massage from them (or only what they want people to know through public tv or news paper) More than 50 people died but the government said most victims were attacked by the terrorists and the rest were terrorist themself (no weapond found with the dead body) but of couse ..some of the protestors have ones...the home made gun..the home made rocket...sling shot..

    Anyway, it's over (for now) I think some of the Red will wait and go fight underground the bloody hands PM can only visit the half country.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  10. jørn jerstad

    why does not someone teach the thai people how to grow a democraty and what all about it means
    its impossible to be a democrat without knowing what it means and how it work many country in europe has used 100 year to make it work

    May 19, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cieje3

    I wanna go there and be a thai-fighter!

    May 19, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cieje3

    In all seriousness, protesting against a tyrannical government and protesting against a force of nature will bring approximately the same results..

    May 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. The Truth

    Rolf, you say Thaksin has stolen more than any other politician, but just what do you mean by 'stolen'? The richest 2% in Thailand get 80% of the GDP, that is 80% of the wealth. The richest people are the elite, the current government of Bangkok. The whole economic system in Thailand is designed to deny the poorest people a reasonable share of the wealth, so that it flows to the established rich class. Thaksin, I agree with you, was very corrupt, but at least some of the wealth was going to the poorest – that's why they love him. On the other hand, the ruling elite want the present system to continue, whereby they get the vast majority of the wealth for very little input.

    I think we both agree that the solution here is to have elections, and the current dictatorship should do that as quickly as possible (they have already taken more than 3 and a half years!).

    I note your reference to the Red Shirts as 'terrorists'. It is interesting to follow the line of your logic; you seem to be saying they are violent (at least some of them), and so they are terrorists. And because they are terrorists, the clear sub-text is that their cause is illegitimate and invalid, and so does not need to be discussed.

    However, I would say that their cause is completely legitmate and valid; they want the chance to vote for the government of their choice.

    And in fact, it is the government's position that is hard to support; they are imposing military-backed dictatorship on a people and a country that is accustomed to democracy.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. Thai

    I agree with Rolf that Thaksin weakened democracy in Thailand. Not just that, he weakened the morality of Thais as well. It's true that there have been a lot of corruption all over the world, especially in the deloveloping countries like Thailand. But the harm that Thaksin caused to Thais was so serious and over his almost 8 year term such harm has been sinking in into Thais' brain, especially to the people in the country. He made them believe that his corruption was acceptable as long as there was some chage to spare to the poor. To me, that is the very serious harm since the poor shall do nothing to improve their own quality of living but waiting for some token from the corrupt leader/government. And you know what did they do with the small change received from Thaksin? They went ahead and buy some mobile phones, motorcycles and other stuff improper for their earnings through hire purchase service from one of the Thaksin's companies.
    For the ones arguing for the problem south of Thailand, please do some reseach. It's true that there have been problems in the area for quite a long time. But it has never been this serious if Thaksin had not ordered massive killings while he was in position. He caused so many problems to the country that any government after his has to resolve.

    May 24, 2010 at 5:39 am | Report abuse |
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