Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mobs, police clash in Bangkok

This post was continuously updated until noon on 2 September; airport status updates here.

It's 4:47am in Bangkok, 5:47pm in NY City, and 10:47pm in London
Mob demonstrations in Bangkok tunred violent in the early hours of Tuesday. A Jotman reader in Bangkok describes for us the live pictures being broadcast on Bangkok television at this hour.
4.20 am

Channel 3 broadcasts Live the development of events. "red" and "yellow" brace for confrontation. police tries to prevent bloodshed. which in fact has already started.

Bangkok Pundit quotes Matichon - that police has confiscated weapons from PAD, gives numbers. Now they show both groups throw stones and other heavy things at each other... police on the move...

hard to understand who is who, since actually all of them have at least one piece of yellow cloth.

oh, now they show some guys in sort of military uniform ! is that military police?

well finally it seems like they play same clips over and over.

now NBT it seems showing Live. I saw some guys beating man with stick, although do not know who is who. some it seems wearing even white color. some wear blue. shooting slings too. I think these are PAD fighters. coz it looks like very near to the Makkawan bridge and that huge PAD poster of Thaksin and his wife "Most wanted"

"Rainbow mess" !

"reds" it seems also have ambulances or some sort of that, vans - loading wounded. yeah, ambulance. so, I guessed correct - those were PAD beating up anyone who approaches near to their camp. all of them wearing helmets. definitely PAD is much better prepared.

footage shows disposed shells, wholes in car's glass.. so, guns are also in use already.

"military police" (?) is on the move.

actually, A LOT of people making videos, photos ! I saw one foreigner with camera too.

oops, in my part of BKK (Phaonyothin) heavy rain started. but on TV doesn't look like it is raining in Dusit. perhaps rain will cool down the confrontation?
At 1:30 am Bangkok time, Bangkok Pundit had blogged:
There are clashes on the street between PAD and UDD/DAAD about an hour or so ago near Ratchadamonern and Makawan Bridge. There is talk of guns. Channel 3 reports that one UDD/DAAD was reported to be shot. No one who started it or who attacked who first - expect both sides to blame each other. PAD seem to be distinguishable as they have motorcyle helmets, yellow shirts, and sticks. UDD/DAAD are not so well-prepared, but do have some sticks and red clothing. They also had some motorcycles.
The situation in Bangkok this morning is extremely volatile.

Update at 5:11 am Bangkok time. It certainly sounds as if the opponents of the PAD mob are gearing up for battle today. The Nation reports:

At 1.20am, hundreds of pro-government protesters, armed with batons, axes and big knives, marched from Sanam Luang to the Government House. The pro-government rally at Sanam Luang began on Saturday, amid fears of violence.

After midnight (early Tuesday morning), the pro-government protesters managed to break through the police lines who guarded the area. Their proclaimed intention was to "seize back" Government House from the PAD.

As of 1.40am, when they arrived at Makkawan Bridge, they clashed with guards of People's Alliance for Democracy who were deployed to guard the area. The area is only a few hundred metres from Government House.

Shinawatra Pabunchart, leader of pro-government protesters claimed that his men have already surrounded the Government House at 2am on Tuesday in a bid to oust anti-government protesters from the Government House.

He said he will allow the protesters in the Government House to go out but wil not allow anybody to enter the compound.

He said his group has no choice but to do so because many people were disagreed with the PAD-led protests and its seizure of the Government House.

He claimed that more people from other provinces will travel to Bangkok to join the confrontation with the PAD protests.

He said his group had no choice but to move his people to the Government House as the government could not handle the situation.

PAD leader Suriyasai Katasila said the pro-government protesters attacked PAD's guards around the site.

He claimed that one of his men was shot and was rushed to a hosptial nearby.

A reporter confirmed that she heard several gunshots. She also saw the injured man who she said seemed to have gunshot wounds and his body was soaked with blood.

Suriyasai said that it is estimated that dozens of protesters of both sides were injured.

This AFP report was filed at 4:30am:
Thai police called in army reinforcements early Tuesday as violent clashes between protesters in Bangkok left dozens of people injured, with at least one reported killed, officials said.

Gunshots were reportedly fired as thousands of baton-wielding pro- and anti-government protesters clashed in the capital Bangkok.

The violence took place not far from the site where about 15,000 demonstrators have been besieging Government House for a week, demanding that Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej step down.

"Thousands of protesters from Sanam Luang went to the scene and clashed," the police officer in charge of the area told AFP, referring to a plaza where protesters often gather.

"There were reports of gunfire, but police cannot confirm who fired or how many were injured.

"The police took about 15 minutes to break up the groups," said the officer, who did not wish to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Thailand's national police chief Patcharavat Wongsuwan told a local news channel that the army had been called in to help calm the situation, but that invoking a state of emergency was not necessary.

"The number of police is still enough to take care of the situation but we have asked the assistance from the army to help," he said. [. . .]

Invoking a state of emergency not necessary? WTF? According to an AP article, filed within the hour:
Protesters seeking to topple Thailand's prime minister and mobs of his supporters clashed early Tuesday, leaving one dead and dozens injured hours after state workers sympathetic to anti-government demonstrators threatened to cut essential services.

A coalition of 43 unions representing workers at state companies including water, electric, phone and the national airline said they would cut off services to the government starting Wednesday
in support of the anti-government protests. They already were disrupting rail service and planned to cut back public bus transportation. [. . . ]

Sondhi Limthongkul, the senior protest leader, said he liked the idea of shutting down public services even it might anger and inconvenience many Thais.

"I think it's one way of putting pressure on the government," Sondhi told reporters. "At the end of the day, they will see whether it's me who is the problem or Mr. Samak. All we want is Mr. Samak to go. When Samak goes, we stop."

Mr. Sondhi is about to get a lot of people killed -- for what?

This video show the scenes from tonight's violent confrontation -- including footage of injured or dead people. It was uploaded to YouTube three hours ago (at 2:00am Bangkok time):

Update: PM Samak has declared a State of Emergency. "Mr Samak appointed the powerful army commander General Anupong Paojinda as chief of a new team tasked with enforcing the emergency decree, with Bangkok's police chief and the capital's regional army commander as his deputies."

Nirmal Ghosh of The Straights Times reports on the early morning violence (Hat-tip Nicholas at New Mandala). Sometimes one photo says it all. Look at this accompanying photo. The caption reads "The police simply walked away and watched from a distance as the almost medieval battle erupted." I quote from the article:

The PAD which has been occupying Government House located just beyond the bridge, lay in wait behind barricades.

The mood in the PAD camp was serious and businesslike. All the men at the barrier wore helmets and carried baseball bats. Some had slingshots. From a distance, the sound of the pro-government crowd could be heard as they approached.

The pro-government crowd, many wearing red shirts and red headbands, marched quickly towards the Makkawan bridge and was met by a double row of police in full riot protection gear but without batons. In less than five minutes the police allowed the crowd through.

Minutes later at about 1.20am the police simply walked away and watched from a distance as the almost medieval battle erupted.

Some in the crowd, armed with two by fours and rods and slingshots, began to run towards the PAD's sparsely guarded outer perimeter. The PAD guards manning the perimeter ran and the crowd chased them, throwing aside metal barriers. The men were screaming with rage as they ran at the PAD. One car window was broken and the pro-government crowd roared.

But as the few dozen young men in the vanguard of the pro-government crowd neared the PAD just after 1am, the close ranks of the PAD suddenly roared and came running out in a full charge, plowing into the pro-government crowd who were totally outnumbered and ill equipped to defend against the charge.

Simultaneously a volley of gunfire erupted from the PAD, and at least one pro-government protestor fell immediately, eyewitnesses from the pro-government group said. But Thai media reported that a PAD member had been killed.

Unbelievable. Concerning the Thai media reports that a "PAD member had been killed." The article continues:

Another report quoted a hospital source saying that the man was from Nakorn Ratchasima in the north east - where most of the pro-government crowd was from.

A pitched battle ensued where the two rival mobs met, with many at the rear of the pro-government crowd running helter skelter as they realised the PAD had the upper hand and heard the gunshots.

After an initial shot, more shots were heard at random intervals as the struggle surged back and forth for about two or three minutes.

The shots were clearly coming from the PAD ranks. Bullets zinged into the trees above me and another journalist from Bloomberg; we were the only foreign journalists there.

One of the bullets cut down a branch.

Later two bullet marks were found on the tree, and one bullet on the ground. At the burst of shots I shouted 'bullet' and we both ducked and ran with the crowd, which was climbing over walls and trying to break into nearby buildings to get away.

Why did the police make no effort to separate the two groups? Why was no force used to keep them apart? Are Thai police useless? What does this observation bode for the ability of the government to enforce a State of Emergency?

Update: Here is a video (uploaded at around 1:00am Bangkok time) that shows the mainly the "red scarves" (pro-government) group members on the street shouting and running:

The Straights Times article was terrific -- I recommend you read the whole thing. More about the events leading up to these violent clashes in Bangkok here. Thailand Jumped the Shark has more videos of the violent protests. New Mandala and Bangkok Pundit have more updates, commentary and analysis.

Update: Airport status from morning to early afternoon of Tues

Hat Yai airport: Supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy in Hat Yai headed to the international airport there to stage a protest. The protesters blocked the entrance to the Hat Yai international airport to protest against the announcement of state of emergency in Bangkok. The Nation

Krabi airport: Supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy in Krabi staged protested against the announcement of stage of emergency in Bangkok by briefly blocking the airport Tuesday morning.They later moved to rally at the Krabi city hall. Their leaders said they might also block major roads in the province. The Nation

Surat Thani: Supporters of People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) blocked entrances of Surat Thani airport on Tuesday afternoon to oppose Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej for announcing the state of emergency in Bangkok. The supporters announced that they would seize the runway and will use it as a venue to hold anti-government protest in the province. The blockade stopped airport staff and passengers from entering and exiting the airport. It also prevented all vehicles from entering the area. According to director of Surat Thani airport Chamnong Sorn-aksorn, security has been stepped up to prevent the protesters from seizing the runway. (bangkok post)

Phuket Airport: See this article.


    More violence feared as rival protesters still confront each other

    so, those are actually are soldiers.

    >>>Anti-riots soldiers from the First Army Region
    Hundreds of soliders have moved into the clash area to help the police order amid extremely high tension.<<<

    >>>A PAD leader Suriyasai Katasila said some of the pro-government protesters were armed with guns and they fired at PAD demonstrators.

    "It was like the situations leading up to October 6," he said, referring to the infamous Thammasat massacre in 1976....<<<

    yeah, yeah ! PAD certainly wants to make it into another "hok-tula" (1976) or "Black May" (1992), and themselves to appear as heroes and martyrs.

    although there is a huge difference: that time students were mass-murdered by very same ultra-right as PAD is; and now Police and soldiers do not have guns, but only batons and shields.

    and anti-Pad mob in comparison to their rivals are greatly outnumbered and unequipped comparing to PAD fighters.

    so, Suriyasai is being hypocritical - mostly trying to jab Samak by such mentioning of
    "hok-tula" :

    >>>An emotionally-choked Suriyasai said incidents leading to the clash were something Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej "must have been aware of...
    I don't want to say he had a hand in this, but you know him and October 6," the PAD leader said. <<<

    right ! but PAD thugs attacking reporters is nothing, huh?

    >>>more people from other provinces will travel to Bangkok to join the confrontation with the PAD protests.<<<

    well, that's I am sure of ! because "ban-nork" (villagers) are slow to react and quite uninformed. but once they realize what's PAD is up to (to curb the electorate right of rural people) - I am sure they will show how much they agree with that !

    September 2, 2008
    A bomb exploded early yesterday morning near an intersection in Phra Nakhon in Bangkok.
    PAD denies responsibility for bombing police box

    PAD seizes official documents in Government House

  2. Anonymous,

    I completely agree with your analysis here:

    "It was like the situations leading up to October 6," he said, referring to the infamous Thammasat massacre in 1976....

    yeah, yeah ! PAD certainly wants to make it into another "hok-tula" (1976) or "Black May" (1992), and themselves to appear as heroes and martyrs.

    Although there is a huge difference: that time students were mass-murdered by very same ultra-right as PAD is; and now Police and soldiers do not have guns, but only batons and shields.

    and anti-Pad mob in comparison to their rivals are greatly outnumbered and unequipped comparing to PAD fighters.

    so, Suriyasai is being hypocritical - mostly trying to jab Samak by such mentioning of


  3. Here is some background about the 1976 massacre:


    This time, Prime Minister Samak is on the other side.

  4. right now it looks like some official statement from Samak is being announced on all TV channels.

    perhaps government is taking some more active steps.

    my Thai is not so good - but I hear often mentioned word Constitution, and also many numbers...

    let's wait - perhaps Nation or Bkk Post will publish it soon.

  5. well, yeah, here it is :

    State of emergency announced


  6. it's about a time, huh ?

    otherwise, how long anarchy or PAD-style "Mobocracy" will reign ?

    State of emergency announced in Bangkok

    Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej Tuesday announced the state of emergency in Bangkok following a clash between the pro and anti-government supporters early in the morning.

    Thai PBS said the PM's order would exempt the enforcement of Article 9 which would prevent people from leaving their residences at night.

    The station said the announcement would prohibit gathering of more than five people.

    The state of emergency also allows the authorities to detain suspects for seven days and would prohibit people from making illegal entries into government offices.

    Democrat Party MP Sathit Wongnongtoey said the state of emergency would allow the prime minister to have absolute control.

    Democrats as usually are trying to be smart asses. where they were when PAD seized government house or beat reporters? that time somehow they didn't complain much.
    perhasp Sathit would rather prefer that Sonthi will escalates events to bigger bloodshed?

  7. Anonymous,

    About time, wouldn't you say?

  8. YEAH!

    that's what I am talking about !

    I think both PAD and Samak were waiting for this move.
    hard even to say - who was more impatient for this move.

    at least it will hopefully end the stalemate (well, mostly government's passiveness). or rather - the increasingly dangerous escalation of anarchy by PAD !

    but of course it is not far from the resolving the matter. probably only the REAL beginning.

    now on TV showing huge crowds on Ratchadamnoen Ave. rain ! as I thought - rain has somewhat cooled down the emotions.

    interesting ! on NBT reporter shows the LIVE CCTV feeds from different parts of the country - the update of current situation.


Because all comments on this blog are moderated, there will be some delay before your comment is approved.