May 18th, 2010
06:50 PM ET

Troops begin massing in central Bangkok

Several hundred military troops began massing in central Bangkok early Wednesday - the largest movement of forces since clashes broke out last Thursday between opposition protesters and government security officials.

The troops were seen walking in a long column and carrying razor wire and fire extinguishers near the site where the protesters have been launching demonstrations.

Opposition leaders told CNN in a phone call that armored personnel carriers were also spotted near the protest site, but that report could not be immediately confirmed.

It was not clear where the troops were heading, but the large show of force raised speculation that some sort of military operation could be unfolding to root out about 5,000 protesters still occupying the demonstration area.

At least 36 people have been killed since clashes intensified Thursday.

The violence prompted the United Nations' top human rights official to implore anti-government protesters and government officials to resume talks.

Satit Wongnongtaey, the Thai prime minister's office spokesman, said negotiations can be held when the opposition, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, ends its protest.

"I can confirm that the government has always wanted to talk, but it has been let down by the UDD, due to the
intervention of a mastermind abroad," said Satit, who didn't identify the person.

The opposition members, also known as Red Shirts, support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 bloodless military coup.

The capital city was notably calmer Tuesday. But after more than five days of violent standoffs, debris and piles of tires littered battle-scarred streets, and the sound of gunfire still regularly punctuated the air.

Police spokesman Col. Songphol Watanachai told reporters Tuesday that police had seized 9,021 tires from the city's streets. Burning tires have been used by protesters to create shields of black smoke during recent clashes.

Songphol said police had arrested and were interrogating a Red Shirt protester who was a close aide to Maj. Gen. Khattiya Sawasdipol, better known as Seh Daeng - a renegade leader of a violent anti-government faction who died this week after being shot in the head by a sniper.

As troops continued their crackdown on protesters, Amnesty International criticized the government's approach.

Benjamin Zawacki, the organization's Thailand specialist, told CNN that 35 of the people killed since Thursday were unarmed, including a 17-year-old boy and two medics.

"Our concern is that the government is using live ammunition or live rounds pre-emptively, rather than as a last resort, and using them against persons who are unarmed and present no credible threat to the soldiers or anyone else," he said.

But government officials maintained that they were following rules of engagement. Troops only use live bullets when first attacked by terrorists with war weapons, Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd told reporters.

Two main groups of anti-government demonstrators have been demanding that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolve the lower house of Parliament and call new elections: the Red Shirts, whose leaders claim that protesters are peaceful, and the Black Shirts, who advocate a more violent approach.

The government ordered all demonstrators to leave their protest site by 3 p.m. Monday, but thousands continued to hold their ground.

"As the latest government deadline passes, there is a high risk that the situation could spiral out of control," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Monday. "To prevent further loss of life, I appeal to the protesters to step back from the brink, and the security forces to exercise maximum restraint in line with the instructions given by the government. Ultimately, this situation can only be resolved by negotiation."

The Ministry of Public Health reported that 65 people have died and more than 1,000 have been wounded since the Red Shirt anti-government protesters began flooding the streets of Bangkok on March 12 to demand new elections.

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Filed under: Thailand
soundoff (191 Responses)
  1. Dizzy

    The ignorance shown in a few of these posts is astounding. The Western media likes to turn this into a clash of good (red shirts = fight for democracy) vs. bad (gvt = oppressor), and so many people are buying into it. I lived in Thailand for 20 years and was a part of the 1992 protest. This is no way the same. The red shirts are at best a mix of real grassroots protestors, Thaksin funded power hungry zealots, and violent and irresponsible thugs (looting, using human shields, and killing – yes, did you see the video of reds pulling army soldiers out of their trucks and lynching them?). While I do support the grassroots red shirt moderates, they seem to be increasingly in the minority. For its part, the government initially showed considerable restraint, but the army is so divided and incompetent that any government mandates are hardly heeded. Long story short, this whole thing is a mess, and both sides (but in my opinion largely the reds) are out of control. As for the monarchy, the King stepping in could be a short term solution, but the problem goes much deeper. At this point, Abhisit probably needs to let the UN moderate and let things play out as they may. I don’t see him as having much of a short term future in Thai politics.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • dboy

      What they need is a real election. The problem though, is that even with an election one side or the other will not accept it. Democracy only works if the losing side admits defeat and moves on. You notice this in every American presidential election..the loser has a "concession speech". It's that speech that keeps democracy working.

      May 18, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ruffnutt

    some one needs to get those protesters some sniper riffles... or atleast some slingshots.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • OneGuy

      They've got a lot now. As they put the bullet through the general's head.
      He was shot from upright of his head.

      May 18, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • AJ

      OneGuy, u should go support Abhisit like MM bcos we gonna take him to ICC.

      May 18, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • dboy

      Heh, I know you were joking but the Reds DO have slingshots.

      May 18, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • CK

      If you take him to ICC, it will be the Lich King who wins. No one wants this, I promise you.

      May 19, 2010 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. To sam

    I really want these people to stay in your country and seize the time square also

    May 18, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TomBKK

    More inaccurate, biased reporting from CNN. They need to replace Dan Rivers and Sarah Snider with correspondents who understand Thai politics and can fairly report what's happening here.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • realthai

      I totally agree.

      May 18, 2010 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • dboy

      AlJazzera has done some great reporting on the events in Bangkok. Their reporters seem to care enough about the situation to actually try to understand and accurately explain it. It's a shame what America media has become. All Americans get is a 15 second mention of the event along with some video shot by someone else. What happened to real reporting in the US?

      May 18, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. flower children

    cruel thai people support army to kill another thaiman because they have different political idea

    ... i'm so sad
    i do't want to be thai people at all

    this is not thailand, land if smile.
    this is blindland, land of die.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • OneGuy

      I'm glad to here that.

      May 18, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • dboy

      Are you Thai? I really hope you don't feel that way. Thailand is a great country. They are just having some big problem right now.

      May 18, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. IamTHAI

    Lets look at the facts. whereever the RED shirts go in Thailand they are booed by the residents of the area. these Protests started 2 months ago – when the courts confiscated Thaksin's money. They simple people protesting (other than the leadership) can not express why they are protesting – they only know it is for democracy. There is rampant vote buying in Thailand, Thaksin & his goons intimidated everyone and bought everyone else who could be bought. There was an incident at the Nation Newspaper many years ago – when a story was written that talked about Thaksin corruption. the next day 30-40 taxi drivers showed up in front of the Nation Bldg in Bangna with Knives – threatening reports. That is not democracy either. If the army wanted to seriously crackdown on these protestors; it would be quite easy to do so, but at the cost of many lost lives. they choose not to hurt these protestors but in return they the RED shirts manipulate the media – claiming the government has killed its people. They have a Black militia that works in the REd shirt camp trying to incite violence – so that the international media can pressure the government to step down.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Intriiigue

      Thank you IamTHAI you hit the right note, but not sure if the world can see it.
      I am with you on this, read my comment: Iamintriiigue
      The terrorists have blended their people in with the Red Shirts. Killed the innocent, and blamed that on the Thai government.
      Addtional note and clarification on my comment below regarding to the charges on Thaksin came from the judge and the supreme court in Thailand. But Thaksin wants the King of Thailand to pardon him of all the charges and to allow him to come back and live in Thailand. Thaksin actually ran out of the country himself to escape charges...

      May 18, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. WP

    to kill people without proper investigation and justice is totally wrong. to kill people is a SIN.. so to use the live ammo is totally wrong way to solve the problem.. Thai government have been gone the wrong direction.. SO SAD INDEED.. The gove attem to win the protestors in BKK but how about other region of the country... Killing can not solve any problem. other note, the gover is always keep lying.. thAt is the true... I am the one in the scene and I was the military officer with special force..

    May 18, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. I'm thai

    If red shirt came and do the thing they do in Bangkok. you'll say they're not innocent!
    but I still cry for foolishness of them

    May 18, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Intriiigue

    One thing the news failed to mention is the 'real' reason behind the disturbances in BKK, Thailand. Addtional to Thaksin, ex-Prime Minister who was exiled, but able to give instructions to people in the Red Shirts to continueously cause disturbances in BKK. Some of the terrorists came from where our men
    and women in the US Armed Forces are fighting right now in the Middle East. Many of the terrorists came thru Malaysia. Currently, these terrorists associated with 9/11( in the US ) are living in the Southern parts of Thailand and have been there for awhile at least since 2004 undetected. These group of terrorists have successfully able to obtain and control certain areas in the Southern parts of Thailand near Malaysia. Many Buddhists, especially Buddhist monks have been murdered along with the Muslims who have been living there peacefully prior to 2001. The same group of terrorists are supporting the Red Shirts' cause, which will benefit them in the long run with the demand for new election. With the new election, these group of terrorists will be able to get their people into the political higher positions easily by paying the poor people to vote for them, hence new laws. And there goes 'Thailand' and the Buddhist country.
    Thaksin, the ex Prime Minister who was exiled can't even come back to live in Thailand, but yet ordered his people, the Red Shirts to demand for new election and to pardon him from all the crimes charges by the King of Thailand, whom the Red Shirts also demand that there be no more Monarchy. Thaksin has been planning to become the first President of Thailand and has the money that was stolen from Thailand and the Thai people to buy anyone who can easily be bought with money. With that in mind, the Red Shirts propaganda also have the influence in the Western society since money talks around the world, and are talking to the medias here in the US to discrediting the Thai government on their actions against the Red Shirts.
    Thank you for reading this far, above is just in a nutshell.
    My contact:
    Iamintriiigue@yahoo.com

    May 18, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Victor Ma

      I have never mention any thing about the king and the royal family or any political issue. My only concern now is the lives of Thai civilians.

      May 18, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. IamTHAI

    Everytime the government extends Peace to the redshirts, the redshirts argue among themselves. sometimes they accept, but the next day the violence continues and they do not leave the area. the Poor residents of the area are locked in with no where to go home. the Black shirt camp (in the red shirt side) start throwing grenades at the police/army (a few have been killed already) and at Bangkok Bank branches (red shirts hate Bangkok Bank because one of their directors is the enemy of Thaksin). Why do all this for one corrupt person. Thaksin does not show himself in the media now, choosing to distance himself from the movement, at the same time calling for the UN to step in. He himself had his daughters and wife leave the country (for business reasons?) while his hired hands incite violence.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mfukaq

    Reported by Thai bloggers at location of soldiers that the soldiers are wearing pink wrist bands. No doubt they are bringing food and water to the protesters on behalf of his Royal Majesty.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sam

    Thai Monarchy has managed to fool everyone that they are a poor people saint.
    Ask who's behind all the blood sheds in the past, who gave orders to kill innocent student Oct 14, Oct 6 etc.
    History will tell !!!!!!!!!!

    May 18, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • To sam

      Yes yes good luck to your huge and sympathize knowledge and memories

      May 18, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • dboy

      Sam: I bet you're from Cambodia aren't you? I'm starting to get that impression.

      May 18, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Red People

    The Thai gov. is very cruel.Now Apisit is the gov.who murdered the protesters 66 persons for his power, win the Prime Minister Thanom in the past. The gov.always tell a lies.They think that the protesters are paid by Thaksin.They have their brains. Aphisit graduated from Oxford University,England,but he is not well educated in Democracy.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • To sam

      Yes yes and do not forget the solider that had been murdered also by M79!!! who did it?! not you guys ?!
      freedom of speech here

      May 18, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. IamTHAI

    It is the ultimate lie, when you have militia working in your camp inciting violence throwing grenades at police/army (stealing, looting) and then you go to the International Media and say the government is violent.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • dboy

      Right now both sides are blaming each other for the violence...blaming each other will not help with finding a solution.

      May 18, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sam

    Branding people terrorists is a convenient way to justify killing innocent people AND has been used many times in the past.
    Didn't we believe that Sadam had WMD and was about to sleep with Bin Ladan ..............................................

    May 18, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Victor Ma

      I totally agree with you.

      May 18, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • To sam

      Yes yes telling people that Saddam had a ton of mass destruction weapons is a real story

      May 18, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
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