The Thai government appears to have mindlessly shot its way in a corner. Saturday's army crackdown against protesters failed to achieve any strategic objective. Despite much bloodshed, the army did not disperse the protesters. Having killed a number of red shirts indiscriminately, the Thai government now claims that live rounds were not used. In making such an assertion, the government denies an overwhelming preponderance of eyewitness documented evidence.
Prior to Saturday, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit must have been concerned about looking weak. Today, even from the perspective of his supporters, not only the prime minister but also the leadership of Thailand's military forces appear incompetent -- and no less weak. Did the army expect no resistance? What was the plan, the strategy? The fact that soldiers fired live rounds of ammunition at protesters in close proximity to thousands foreign tourists speaks to the staggering carelessness -- indeed, the irresponsibility -- of Thailand's present military and civilian leadership.
The cause of the red shirts has been consecrated in blood. The movement now has its martyrs. Red shirts can be expected to arm themselves better in preparation for any future street confrontation. Many more supporters of the rural opposition movement, privy to evidence of the heartless brutality shown by government forces towards visitors to the Thai capital from the countryside, sickened by Bangkok's denials, are bound to step out of the woodwork. Tensions within the Thai armed forces may lead to outright fractures.
If negotiations were to resume any time soon, the government would likely find itself at a greater disadvantage relative to its position on Friday.