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. Democratic Thai

    Thank you, Rosanne Bopp. Now Thai people wake up after we have been lied to for over sixty years.

    May 18, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. fairness

    I agree. Thais deserve a real democracy, not fake democracy given by Abhisit administration. Shamed on them!

    May 18, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      At this point the most serious issue is a

      May 18, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. IamTHAI

    Sam, why are you not made at the army soldiers that withheld their fire and got grenades thrown at them. A few of them killed. why are you not mad that, as any time in history, the poor and uneducated are being taken advantage of. That Thaksin is paying them to protest peacefully; while instructing militia to incite violence while he enjoys shopping in whichever hellhole he is in. Then the innocents are just sitting ducks in a war zone, that they have to flee to a Monastery. The Poor are just being brainwashed. why are you not mad at the people who have no where to live now because their house became a war zone and they can't do business now. why are you not mad that all this protesting started when the Government confiscated Thaksin's money and so he used a portion of it to pay the Red leaders. Why do you continue to blame a King who is 80 years old and dedicated his life to social work.

    Just sit on your high chair saying, f- the president, f- the government, etc. just because you have freedom of speech and feel inclined to talk your mind like you know alot. Jimm, I could google of wiki Thaksin and find hundreds of crme/claims/accusations too. I'm going to work now so will check at night. Later Ladies

    May 18, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      YES, thanks god I can sit in my high chair without fearing of being shot by the US army!!!!

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

    Watch out! GAY PREM will die soon. This son of the bit_h has been behind these messes.

    May 18, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • dboy

      I have heard that the Red's are against gay rights. Very sad. You want freedom for yourself, without caring about anyone else.

      May 18, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. fairness

    Iam Thai: I think you should also admit that lots of companies have funded PAD. Then, Thaksin has a right to fund red shirt. Stop being a girl blaming only one side.

    May 18, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Aldo Leo

    one thing for sure is, he will never again go north of Bangkok, actually I'm not sure the last time he was north. I know they threw rocks at him in Chiang Mai several years ago.

    May 18, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. fairness

    Sam, I totally support your idea. Thais are scared of being killed if they complain royal family. I can't imagine they are great in faking to say "i can die for royal family".

    May 18, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      I don't blame Thai people.
      IF US army were to point a gun a my head, I would swear that I LOVE Bush too

      May 18, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Democratic Thai

    The US government must condemn the massecre of Thai people same as They did condemn China government killing innocent people at Tien An Men square. If US government doesn't condemn Thai government, it means the US government is a hypocript.

    May 18, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Democratic Thai

    Thai soldiers that kill the protester have blue and pink colored cloths around their necks. Blue and pink are color of Thai king and queen. So now the army are killing innocent people in the name of Thai king. Thai king must take responsibility in the killings.

    May 18, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Democratic Thai

    Bangkok now is the kiling field. People around the world must boycott Thai government.

    May 18, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Aldo Leo

    I agree, and my wife and I will be writing letters to our favorite Senator and others. I urge others to do the same. I would also like to know as I have heard others mention , is the weapons and technology the soldiers are using American made? We should not be training or trading with the Thai military after what has happened in front of our eyes.

    May 18, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Aldo, SHAMEFULLY 100% American made killing machine

      May 18, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. IamTHAI

    Fairness, I do admit that companies probably funded PAD too, although not to the extent of the RED shirts The Red shirt protests were always much more violent, blood spilled in front of the PM house, unneccessary burning of Tires, stopping normal citizens in the street and searching them, climing into Parliament, the shooting of Sondhi (Leader of the yellow shirts). I know Thailand is a dirty and corrupt place. There should be a new election if not this year then next year anyways (when Abhisit's interim term ends). But what social policies and policing will be in place to make sure there are fair elections and order in the country – not people burning tires and raiding hospitals/stores/ATM. I think that is what Abhisit's wants to ensure. 2 weeks ago bomb was thrown in front of the Election Commissioner's house – to intimidate. Its the same way in Phillipines or any Emerging Country.
    The are police and army on both sides of the conflict. there is a special term for them called Watermellon (army green on the outside and Red on the inside); therefore things are quite difficult. The current government is not good with working with the Media, That has always been Thaksin's forte – he can call CNN whenever he wants – he ran Shinawatr Media company before becoming PM and then granting concessions to his company and then giving shares to his children/relatives and selling it at a high price.
    I welcome the move to empower the poor and for change in my country, but there has to be order. It will be a hard task, but not one that will come about by bringing Thaksin back to power.

    May 18, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. IamTHAI

    It is so easy to cross-dress in army clothing or Red clothing and shoot one another. Who knows what is what anymore. I fear there will be a Civil war.

    May 18, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Democratic Thai

    I agree with IamThai that the current government is not good with working with the Media, so it decided to close all the opposite side's media. So the governmnet can lie freely.

    May 18, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Most TYRANTs believe in using their controlled media to white wash the blood on their hand.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
  15. IamTHAI

    quite different than Thaksin shutting up the media's mouth by sending Taxi drivers with knives to the Nation's Bldg, The innocent RED villagers only here Red propoganda too, saying the army will hurt them if they leave. The government has thus had to distribute leaflets by air to let protestors go home peacefully; which the Red militants do not want to happen.
    ALDO LEO, All the problems in the south with the Muslims occurred when Thaksin was in power.

    May 18, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Oh YEAH, Thaksin ordered Thai Army to slaughter innocent women and children on streets as we speak......

      May 19, 2010 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
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