The Red Shirt protests that have been plaguing the city of Bangkok for some time unexpectedly
turned violent tonight as more than a dozen people were killed in clashes between the Red Shirt protesters and the Thai army.
The stand-off took place near Democracy Monument and was the deadliest clash between the protesters and the army in the month-long protest. Earlier in the day the army had pushed their way into the red camp at Democracy Monument and had forced the protesters back, however this evening the protesters decided to mount a determined comeback.
At first the situation was relatively calm with the army playing soft soothing music to try to keep the situation peaceful. Unfortunately that all changed in a split second as gunfire erupted and the crowd attacked the army with plastic water bottles and bamboo sticks.
The army, outnumbered and perhaps sensing that they were losing control, opened fire. People ran and ducked for cover as the sound of automatic gunfire rang out across the protest site. Soon the protesters had regrouped with even deadlier weapons and suddenly the army was hit by a barrage of rocks and Molotov cocktails (improvised petrol bombs).
The army at this point decided to retreat and surrendered their tanks and armored personnel carriers to the Red Shirts, who then attacked the vehicles with their sticks and shields.
This confrontation at Democracy Monument indicates to me that a military option to ending the siege at Rajaprasong would result in hundreds of deaths. The crowd at Rajaprasong is heavily entrenched and is in an enclosed area with limited escape routes. If the army uses tear gas to clear the crowd at Rajaprasong, in my opinion the resulting stampede would cause many deaths and injuries.
The Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiv, certainly is in a difficult position as he is facing pressure from all sides to end this protest as quickly and peacefully as he can. However, with the Red Shirts unwilling to compromise at all on their quest to bring down the government, I fear that the sound of gunfire will be heard again on the streets of
UPDATE 1: I was interviewed by the BBC Today program about the situation in Bangkok.
UPDATE 2: France 24 News has coverage of my video on their segment about what happened at Democracy Monument.
UPDATE 3:I was interviewed by Kirsten Drysale of the ABC website Hungry Beast about my coverage of the clash between the army and the protesters.
UPDATE 4: I was interviewed by Erika Fry of the Bangkok Post about my video of the clash between the Thai army and the red protesters.
UDATE 5: I’ve posted a Q&A video where I answer many of the questions I received about the shooting at Democracy Monument.