In the thick of the Bangkok clashes

Our Observer Florian Witulski was caught in the middle of Bangkok’s deadly clashes on Friday. Burning tyres, tear gas and explosions: his video, shot on Rama 4 road, gives a raw insight into the violence on the streets of the Thai capital.

FRANCE 24 journalist Nelson Rand suffered gunshot wounds and was seriously injured in the clashes on Friday morning.

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This is going to be a long

This is going to be a long note, but I want my overseas friends to understand what has been happening here in Thailand. You would only see the soldiers' shooting scenes or injured people being carried away on international TV channels for 30 seconds, but never got to know about the background. The truth is, the Thai government has been too accommodating by withholding the use of force since the rally started 2 months ago (with the exception of 10th April event, when the soldiers were ordered to move in without live weapons and subsequently got slaughtered by unknown gunmen shooting from the 'Red Shirt' protesters).

The majority of us support the government in dealing with the terrorists hidden amongst the protesters. It held talks with the rally leaders and offered peace solutions to them 10 days ago. The Prime Minister publicly urged the protesters to disperse for fear of violence created by the terrorists. But the plan wasn't accepted. So, it's time to block food and water supplies entering the center of the protest. If the protesters were peaceful, they wouldn't rush out to throw rocks, firecrackers and even bombs at the soldiers' barricade -- thus, causing the soldiers to defend themselves by firing rubber bullets and live rounds.

It has been very frustrating for the law-abiding citizen of Bangkok -- we even voiced our dissatisfaction at the government for its failure to uphold the laws. The situation was like Bangkok was being held for ransom. A lot of businesses got affected because it's right in the middle of the major commercial area.

Again, think what your government would do if there were a large group of protesters blocking all traffic at Orchard Road in Singapore; Times Square in NYC; Ginza in Tokyo; or Knightsbridge in London for two months. They set up barricades to search through personal belongings of everyone travelling through the area. Also think what it would do if those protesters invaded a nearby hospital, causing doctors & nurses to evacuate patients -- some of whom are newborn babies in incubators and those in ICU -- to other hospitals. And most important of all, think what it would do if the protesters were found to have large stockpile of M79 grenades, M16 & AK47 assault rifles.

Do you think your government would be as tolerant as the Thai government?

Reungvit Nandhabiwat
Business owner, Bangkok, Thailand
15 May 2010

Thailand misery (This is going to be long!)

As a non Thai resident of long standing in Bangkok I agree totally with Khun Reungvit's article. There is injustice between the rich and poor but this is not really about that nor is it any longer about the lack of democracy (if it ever was). Greed and Power lie behind this. The current Prime Minister is probably the best this country has had in a very long time. It is a shame that he will probably not last in the longer term.

I can think of no other country that would have been so patient and tolerant. It is time to root out the hired thugs and mercenaries and bring to court the red leaders who are culpable for this tragedy.

Ivan Pelevin
Ex-Pat
Bangkok
17 May 2010

I think this is all too

I think this is all too political. The army handling of the yellow shirts was peaceful even though they were more destructive. Now with the Red shirts, I see a double standard in dealing with the issue. Why are live bullets used? Isn't there any rubber bullets?

Democracy is dead in Thailand. Such a waste of a beautiful country ruled now by the political elite.

Long answer to previous long nonsense.....

This is sad to see that most of you dont even get the basics of what's going on. I am what you call a "terrorist" ... I am a red Thai. US-educated and relatively 'wealthy'. Tecnically I would want to preserve my advantages too, but I know this is not sustainable. Unlike my urban elite friends, I know and understand that our country can no longer be run by the hands of a few that accumulate all the powers and benefits in Bangkok while the country watches by. I surely understand that the Bangkok elite tags the reds as Terrorist. It is the lack of arguments that forces repeat denigration. It is the natural preservation of dubious wealth and advantages Bangkok Elite has accumulated that forces repeat condescending comments about our Thai brothers and sisters from the countryside who cultivate the rice that feeds all of us.

We don't care about Thaksin. He can stay in Montenegro or Fiji for all i care. But hey, at least he was born in Thailand...unlike our current PM. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.. unlike the current PM and the entourage he belongs too.

Despite being rich himself, via means that are well adopted by ALL Thais (!!) and technically closer to the BKK power clans, Thaksin understood that the havenots in Thailand (which I need to highlight for those who only see the shopping malls of Silom, the Gogo bars of Soi Cowboys and the beaches of Phuket, represent 80% of the population. Once you step out of Bangkok, you survive on USD 100 a month. Good luck!) were left out from the "Thai economic growth miracle". The havenots are tired to wait, they are now more educated, they are no longer kept in a state of complaisance, they have access to internet and they realized..."..we are the majority of this country"... The reds are surely not fighting for Thaksin to come back. I cant see him coming back and this is not about one man. We are fighting for a more equal society, where all the power (commercial, political, army, financial, intellectual, etc.) is not in the hand of a happy few in BKK. An elite happy for the old status quo.

Second, if Thailand calls itself a democracy then simply let the people decide. It is that easy. You cant call yourself a "democrat" but only when you win the elections and create chaos by blocking the airport for 2 weeks when you dont win what you want. The current Democrat Party has not won any elections for the past ten years but they are in power now. How would the British, the Germans, the Japanese, the Americans feel if their PM was not elected by the people but by backdoor shenanigans and then out to give democracy lessons to all? This is ridiculous even to an illiterate farmer from Khon Kaen... The obvious, hurts.

You are all very fast to stamp Thaksin as corrupted (a 'criminal'...) but when he was in power all the MNCs and G-7 Governments were very happy to invest and to do business with him and Thailand. He still has his backdoor entries at all governments as well. The stock market made a lot of money for the stock holders during his time. His policies where cited as an example ('Thasksonomics') in all the global Business press. Thailand was "leading" ASEAN, FDI was pouring in. In that case we can also call all the MNCs that invest heavily in TH while her was the PM, corrupted if you want... Corruption charges against Thaksin were brought forward by a judiciary system completely at the mercy of the current BKK apparatchiks. I am not defending his action to allow his wife to buy cheap land and avoid taxes (though we all know more than one member of our own family in BKK who is doing same as we speak...). But realistically if we dig a bit than the whole Thai politicians would be sent to jail. In that same case, YOU would all jump bail and stay out of the system if you think you can't have a fair trial. I sure would fight at the court if I can get a fair trial. He can afford a good lawyer for a fair fight.

Last, no one approves the burning of tires, the camping on bitumen, the bamboo spikes, the closed shops, and the stress it brings on people on all sides but we need to stop calling demonstrators thugs, mob, vigilantes, dumb and even terrorist etc. Ask yourself why they are willing to die for their cause? Not why is the Thai government 'so patient'... The Thai government is so patient because the "Democrats" have used the same tactics, blocked our airport for two weeks, and because it does not have full support of the army and police. By forcing a crackdown the army would likely officially/unofficially split. So it is now looking a bit like running the country in double standard. Whats new?? It is not patience but its incapacity to run a country, make peace with the majority of its constituents, find a solution which does not look like "let me find a way to keep power for me and my cronies". That's not patience, but incompetence. All the global papers recognize that.

Like it or not the Red are the majority in our country. Is Thaksin buying all the votes ? Is Thaksin organizing a crowd of 200,000 to descend on BKK ? Is Thaksin asking people to die ? This is not credible.... And the more people in Thailand finger point Thaksin as the driver of all this the more I feel we live in a land of the blinds. The reds left inside their compounds have the majority of the country behind them. So far, we cant really say that they are terrorist, armed with anything else than stones, bamboos, and tires. They are being killed by the police, head shots, not the contrary. If they have all the weapons people claim the reds have, you would have a lot more casualty with the army. 60 dead is enough reasons to give (wrong) reasons to those carrying "large stockpile of M79 grenades, M16 & AK47 assault rifles" the chance to use them. You dont need training to kill with an AK47. Still, it is the reds that are being shot while showing their anger. You dont get shot in the head in the US / UK for trowing a rock at the police. Even repeatedly. If you don't want the reds in the streets fighting and dying then meet them around an election. Unlike the "Democrats", we will respect an election of the people by the people.

I am not sure why the previous chat mention New York, London and Japan as example ? Are we comparing Thailand's political system with the US/UK/JP ? Is this a joke ? The reds would never have to camp on the streets simply because the political system would not allow a twice elected party to be taken out of power by the army... Democracy does somehow work against you when your party loses elections... In the UK/US/JP when the opposition loses election, it has to work better to gain the confidence of the voters for the next election. Not block the airport and collude with the army to tumble the government. Alternatively, you can run the country like in Singapore where there is no democracy, but also no corruption on all sides / levels of the government and the low income/middle class is taken care of by smart welfare / housing programs. Cant have your cake and eat it.

A good leader needs to listen to its own people but the current PM is only the PM of the Yellow sid, not the PM of the whole nation. He did nothing to earn that respect.

If you keep stigmatizing the reds as dumb paid thugs from the countryside you will have the same result as with Marie Antoinette when she offered "cake" to the French hungry crowd that was demanding "more bread" in 1789 during the French Revolution. We all know what happened to Marie Antoinette after that... France became a better country.

one opinion to share!

An excerpt from a recent post I made on The Daily Beast:
I'm an American and live and work in Bangkok for an international company. I have lived here for 6 years and have been in and out of Thailand since the early 90s. The international press has not understood the situation here nor reported on it with any kind of real comprehension. The real situation is that the Red Shirts are a very small group of uneducated bumpkins with an obsequious desire to return the ousted PM Thaksin to power. Thaksin's money is paying each of them 2000 THB a day to keep the protests up. What's so ridiculous is that most Thais are against this because bringing Thaksinocracy back is to bring back gross corruption to the politics here. Thaksin was a self-serving megalomanic who bought his two previous elections and later stole an billions of THB from Thailand and the Thai people before being ousted. The Red Shirts scream for democracy - but they don't even know what it means. It's absurd and everyone here knows it. The real problem now is that the police are 90% in support of Thaksin and the Reds, so they won't do anything to curb the protests and violence. The military, which is very powerful here, are on the fence because they are about 50/50 behind the Reds and the Kingdom. There has been sporadic violence but the biggest problem we face is the damage to commerce. With the two largest and most popular commercial areas being closed due to protests for 3 weeks now, retail business, hospitality and the tourism industries are losing about 1.5 billion THB per day. The Reds are doing nothing but hurting the Thai economy, the Thai people and themselves. Current PM Abhisit is an intelligent, respected Oxford scholar trying to find a solution through the proper channels of negotiation while trying to uphold the law.

A bit more:
One part of the whole Red Shirt's argument is that the Red's are screaming for democracy - true democracy - and yet I doubt they even know the meaning of true democracy. I've heard rumors lately that they would actually like to see an end to the Monarchy here. A true democracy does not require the ousting of its monarchy. England is a perfect example of a parlimentary democracy with a monarchy and it works just fine. If the Red's are against the venerable HM Bumiphol and would like the monarchy to go away, I would issue them fair warning. This would be a difficult battle for them that they could never win. HM The King has never been a threat to democracy here and has never ruled Thailand or made any demands on the Thai people. His presence is reveared and appreciated by all. He has never told the Thai people to do anything - only asked graciously. He has done nothing his entire life except love his country and try to improve the well-being of all. HM Bumiphol is more like a father who holds the Thai citizens in his arms with true love and caring. HM The King wants nothing in Thailand but peace and serenity for all. if this is their ultimate intention, the Red Shirt's can only fail at the notion of removing such a great, gentle, intelligent and kind man from the throne. I encourage all the Thai people to stand up against the Red's in every way by showing your support online, in rallies and with your words. Take the lesson from your King - Be true and honest, fair and good. Support our highly capable and intelligent PM, Khun Abhisit, protect your King and Queen and do not let these Red buffalo destroy the land, the name or the prosperity of this great and enduring country.

Reungvit Nandhabiwat what a load of upper class crap!

Mr Reungvit Nandhabiwat

What you seem to forget sitting in your air conditioned comfortable office is this, 1) Thailand is a democracy, so a military coup to remove your prime minister is not democratic, 2) installing a new prime minister without an election is not democratic, 3) your country provides no social carer whatsoever for the poor in your country, so before you start giving your opinion and trying to compare it with the western world you should be aware of those facts, I am sure you are a very educated man and most probably educated by us in the western world, so why don't you put your efforts into creating and maintaining a "democracy" that wealthier people like you claim to have, of course you would not want to do this because you would lose the right to treat lower class Thais as slaves, give them no social care and pay them significantly lower wages than you and your wealthy friends.

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