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Thailand: Blog reactions to Bangkok violence

Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced on national television that Bangkok is now under full government control after government troops successfully removed the Red Shirt protest barricades in the city.

The two-month street protests of the Red Shirts finally ended when soldiers blockaded the protest zones last week and forced the dispersal of the protesters. Violence escalated last May 19 during the final assault operation of the military. The retreating protesters set on fire 36 buildings in the city which included the country’s biggest shopping center, the stock exchange, two TV stations, and several banks.

Based on recent reports, 52 people were killed and more than 400 were injured during the fighting between soldiers and protesters.

Curfew has been imposed in Bangkok and 23 other provinces where the Red Shirts maintain a strong following. The Red Shirts are demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister whom they accuse of being illegitimate and undemocratic. They also want to dissolve the parliament so that a new round election can be conducted.

Red Shirt barricade. Photo by Journotopia

Here are several blog reactions from Bangkok about the political tension in the nation’s capital:

Bangkok Dazed writes about the impact of the May 19 chaos in the capital

People don’t walk much in Bangkok. But this afternoon they did; lots and lots and lots of them. After yet more gangs of Red Shirt thugs hijacked several city buses and burned them, all bus service was stopped in the greater metropolitan area. That’s thousands and thousands of buses. Factor in that there has been no Skytrain or subway service all week, and water taxis have also stopped operating, and all of a sudden Bangkok’s myriad transportation options have dwindled to nothing. Yeah, good luck finding a taxi today.

So I walked home, joining the rest of the strolling masses

I’m still stunned, and very much angered, by the recent events in Bangkok. How can these horrible things be happening in this wonderful city?

Karen was billeted in an almost empty hotel

We arrived in Bangkok last night, around midnight, on the eve of a military crackdown on protesters who had occupied the city core for weeks. “What are you doing in Bangkok now?” the night desk man asked when we checked into our usual hotel, eerily quiet even at 1 a.m

Our street was blocked, no traffic in or out. How strange to be two of only three guests at a normally packed hotel.

GJBKK Blog asks about the status of the protesters who were “escorted” by government buses

Yesterday the government said buses will be provided to escort protesters out of their encampment and take them home. from a distance I saw a few red shirts inside those buses that looked like women and children. The buses were located on the Patunam side of the protest site yesterday afternoon.

I need to get information on how many did actually leave on those buses and did they return safely home, as there a rumour that the buses went South and not North as promised by the government.

I am very concerned that these people may have been taken to army bases for interrogation or worse.

Dr. Will is against some of the methods of the protesters but supports the goal to promote democracy in the country

I watched from my 9th floor window as plumes of smoke rose over the Bangkok skyline. Transportation remains extremely limited and many stores and banks are closed. We've had two nights of curfew that silenced the city. Birds could be heard singing before dawn this morning.

I was a supporter of the red shirt cause as I understood it, true democracy in Thailand and an end to double standards.

But when the Bangkok demonstration began in March I had a bad feeling about it. While the stated goal was simply new elections (which the reds were certain they would win), it didn't seem to me that confrontation with the military could ever succeed. Thailand's enemies are mainly internal and the military, a regime unto itself, is very well armed. I suspected that the real goal was to create martyrs in an attempt to sway the middle class in Bangkok to their side.

While I'm angry at the mobs rioting in the streets, I feel I understand their discontent and rage and sympathize with what I saw as the long term goals of true democracy and an end to double standards.

Suthichaiyoon likens the burning of the Central World mall to the destruction of the World Trade Center twin towers in New York

Bangkok's Central World's arson looks frighteningly similar to New York's World Trade Center's 9/11 incident to me. In fact, Central World was previously known as World Trade Center (Thailand) too.

The big, highly depressing difference, of course, is: The WTC's fiery destruction was brought about by foreign terrorists. Bangkok's Central World was torched by Thais against Thais.

Manik Sethisuwan analyzes the different keywords used on twitter about the crisis in Thailand

But notice how there is almost no significant sign of “Abhisit”, or “Thaksin” or “terrorists”, or “weapons”. Perhaps all these terms are mentioned often times in full length news reports or news highlights, but in Twitter the trend seems to be more priority of keeping people informed of the present live situation or breaking news, rather than detailed analysis, etc, as you can notice how prominent the word “now”, is.

BangkokDan blames the major political forces for the chaos that took place in Bangkok

The events of the past few weeks, days and hours will be burned deeply into Bangkok’s psyche. Our Bangkok will be back. Not tomorrow, not next week – and any other attempt to hold a colored mass protest masqueraded as peaceful will ring alarm bells…May 19th, 2010, will be remembered for a gigantic collapse of common sense, for utter failures on all sides. The government, the reds, the people.

Protests and arson attacks were also reported in the provinces. Andy provides historical background to the burning of a provincial hall in Udon

While this massive arson attack was of course something never happened before in Thailand, it wasn't the first time a province hall was destroyed. The province hall of Surat Thani suffered that fate twice, at first it burned down on December 8 1941 as it caught fire during the Japanese invasion, and a second time on March 19 1982 it was damaged beyond repair by a bomb placed by insurgents. The place where this old province hall was located now contains the city pillar shrine.

Here is a video clip of the Red Shirt protests in Ubon

Lilian writes about the impact of the protest crackdown in Chiang Mai

From one hour to the next, things changed here in Chiang Mai! One road was blocked, and all the malls started shutting down around 4pm. Traffic in town was nightmare. I had to take my kids to music lesson. I was soo nervous that I nearly turned around but the jam was even worse in the other direction so I just kept going. We made it back safely and didn’t see any demonstrations or road blocks. Just traffic traffic traffic!!.. Seems for now demonstrations were on the other side of the town.

Talen received this report from Mukdahan

She said today there were 2 bomb blasts and at least two protesters were killed in Mukdahan. She also said that there were large gatherings of armed protesters. I would have thought they would just go to Nakhon Phanome as it is a much bigger city but apparently Mukdahan is the hot spot with many protests happening in Nakhon Phanom as well. Tomorrow there is a big rally planned for Nakhon phanome and I have a feeling it won’t be pretty.

Pictures of the protests in Ubon are available in Isaan Style, GuideUbon, and The Thai Report. Check also these pictures in Udon through UdonMap. Pictures of the clashes in Bangkok can be accessed in the websites of GJBKK Blog, Jon Russell, and Newley. Read also the account of Newley about the events that took place in Bangkok last May 19. Short video clips were uploaded by Richard Barrow which showed the destroyed buildings of Paragon, Siam Theater, and Zen

Empty stage. Photo by Journotopia

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