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. Jim

    When government snipers attempt to assassinate unarmed dissidents – you better bring in the UN to mediate. The corruption in Thailand is deep – at every level of government but nowhere greater than in absolute power – it of course corrupts absolutely. The Monarchy is in jeopardy of anarchy. The Parliament is ruled by a very well educated dictator. Thailand suffers... the rich get richer... the poor get poorer... such a shame.

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

      Jim, unfortunately the world is full of this kind of dictators, AND US still keeps supporting them in oppressing their own people!!!!

      May 18, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. IamTHAI

    Sam, I don't know what you are angry about or what you read on the internet. Seh Daeng was killed by who know who, it could have been infighting RED shirts, Thaksin or disgusted Army Chiefs who thought he was an impediment to Peace talks. I don't think Abhisit would do it, because he is a man of reason and Law. There is another view in Thailand that the government has not done enough to stem the violence. There is a sense of lawlessness going on now because the red shirts are allowed to do whatever they want. To through grenades in silom at protesting No color shirts.

    May 18, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aldo Leo

      are you serious? "A man of reason and law" ! you are a good citizen robot no doubt.

      May 18, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • dboy

      I seriously doubt it was a Red shirt...See my other post.

      May 18, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      I'm very ANGRY about the Army massacre women and children on the streets of Bangkok by using a high power sniper rifle.
      As IF they are hunting wild pigs using telescope.

      Civilized world CANNOT accept such inhumane practice. (IamThai) PLEASE DON"T try to white wash it

      May 18, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jimm

    Wikipedia Abhisit Vejjaj

    3.2 Election fraud charges
    3.4 2006 Military Coup
    3.5 December 2007 election
    (Abhisit was defeated by Samak for the post of Prime Minister, receiving 163 votes against 310 votes for Samak.)
    4.1 TPI illegal donation scandal
    4.2 Rohingya scandal
    4.3 Corruption
    4.9 Lese Majeste controversy
    4.10 Censorship and media manipulation “Spy” controversy
    4.15 Sondhi Limthongkul assassination attempt
    4.16 GT200 scandal
    4.17 South Thailand insurrection
    4.18 Protest suppression measures
    4.19 4.21.2 By-elections
    5 Unusual wealth

    May 18, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • TcomJ ...... where anybody can write anything and is not even prove read by any peer review.

      My prof wrote that bagel bread is marinated in cow's dunks. It stays there for a month. W/e on wikipedia, it's the most untrusted source that no universities ever rely on it.

      May 24, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. IamTHAI

    There are alot of factions in each of the groups, Reds, Government, etc. It is a mess. But have you asked the Red shirts what they want? they only want to create chaos. when offered peace and a re-election in November, they want Suthep (Minister) to go to jail and they want to be forgiven for all their crimes. I say just take all Thaksin money in the Swiss, Nigerian and Dubai bank accounts and hire international peacekeepers to oversee a fair election in November.

    May 18, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aldo Leo

      Abhisit wants a civil war. But why?

      May 18, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      BUT stop killing innocent people

      May 18, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Obama

    @NR. Thai King never one a noel prize. I did. Don't show your ignorance and stupidity.

    May 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Obama

    @NR. Thai King never won a nobel prize. I did. Don't show your ignorance and stupidity.

    May 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Aldo Leo

    does Obama have $35 billion? I would take the money over the prize.

    May 18, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Obama

    Aldo: I heard Thai king is a big investor. I would like to get some advice from him how to invest in banks, cement companies, shopping malls etc..

    May 18, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aldo Leo

      Good point, and Thailand is full of concrete. Genius really. When you break it down it is over a $1 million a day !

      May 18, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Obama

    Aldo: I think Thai king is very smart. The more dams he want to build, Thai cement company makes more money, and I'm richer.

    May 18, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Aldo Leo

    Land is really where the money is at. I think only about 30% of Thai farmers own their land. And Imagine what an acre of land in BKK is worth. The Family has I believe 3000, but I'm not for sure.

    May 18, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. fairness

    Abhisit and his gang have committed lots of corruptions. So sad to see them commit cuz gay old Prem supports these activities. He should get bombs stick into his ass so that he can feel thrilled and stop involving politics.

    May 18, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jim d.

    " that police had seized 9,021 tires from the city's streets" interesting tidbit of knowledge. maybe they should spend less time counting 9,021 tires and do other stuff. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,......... 9021 (hours and hours later) just release to the media we collected "thousands of tires" or " a whole heckuva lot of tires" ot a "mess of tires"......

    May 18, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aldo Leo

      i bet the count of the dead will not be as accurate!

      May 18, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • dboy

      Tires mak mak!

      May 18, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Aldo Leo

    make that 3,500 acres for the Cliff Clavins out there. Also it is manged by Crown Property Bureau.

    May 18, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rosanne Bopp

    My prayers are with all of the Thai people . Fear and greed on the part of the unelected government and a royal family afraid of losing their power and money. The prophecy may come true and this will end the monarchy. The world is watching .

    May 18, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aldo Leo

      you are so right. My wife is heart broken as am I. This will not end today either. For every dead protester there is a village. The Thai government is very good at killing people and covering it up (Rohingya) (muslims in the south) (Drug traffickers and those accused) (civil protesters several times in last few decades).

      May 18, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Or the country reverts to Burma style
      We close the country and doesn't give a DAMM what the rest of the world think!!!

      May 18, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. fairness

    Why do yellow buffalos are scared of the call of re-election? Don't be scared if you think you have more voters throughout Thailand.

    May 18, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • dboy

      Well, that's pretty much the problem isn't it. The Yellows DONT have the numbers and therefore don't want to take the risk of having an election. But the educated Thais don't want the government to be run by a person chosen by the rural farming class. So it is difficult. I amused at the parallels we have in the US. We have the rural people who are fundamentalist christian and have no business making decisions on much of anything, and we have the urbanites who lean more center/left. In the US is balances out close to even, which is why our elections have been so close lately.

      May 18, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aldo Leo

      they know they will never win an election. Thai rural population is huge. And most in the upcountry poor, the yellow are elite and have nothing in common with low-class upcountry folk.

      May 18, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
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