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Towards democracy or civil war

Photo Report from Bangkok/Thailand 

by Yu-Kyung Lee, 28 April 2010

“Our darkest hours”

The headline of , one of the English daily newspapers in Thailand reads on April 11. The country has witnessed the bloodiest crackdown on anti-government red shirts protesters a day earlier on April 10, as soldiers triggered their guns at protesters, who otherwise would have remained in peaceful. The crackdown following the State of Emergency has caused deadly clashes between security forces armed with tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunitions, and red shirts protesters, who threw whatever at their hands available, resulting in 25 killed, including one Japanese journalist and 5 soldiers, and more than 800 wounded. The most of casualties have occurred around from 18:30 to 21:00 at Khok Wua intersection, nearby the popular tourist area Khaosan, and Dinso road nearby Democracy Monument.

‘Black Saturday’, however, has not terminated the political crisis in the country at all, as Democrats-led coalition government has insisted that it won’t give in to protesters’ demand, which is dissolution of the house to call for a new election. Rather, the government vows to ‘reclaim’ red shirts-occupied Rajaprason, the central area of Bangkok, by enforcing rule of law, indicating another crackdown might be imminent. Red shirts, on their side, are firm to be determined to stage a protest at Rajaprasong and central area ‘indefinitely’. ;

Meanwhile, the army, which had back into their barrack after the embarrassing clashes, came back to the street of Silom since April 19, in an excuse to secure the business district of Silom. The deployment of armed forces casts more shadow of another violence that could be erupted sooner or later. To add its worsen political crisis, the so-called multi-colored demonstrators, which are understood as another faces of yellow shirted-PAD combined royalist, business sectors and aristocrats, have showed up at midnight of April 20 at Silom. They were shouting at Red shirts “kill them” and also chanting “We love King and Queen”, singing anti-communist song, which was sung during the communist insurgency in 70s and 80s.

The years-long political conflict in Thailand has been slowly but visibly sliding into civil war-like situation. Yet whether the grass roots based-Red shirts movement would achieve its political demand without resort any external intervention or not could be experimental for the country’s young democracy.

A soldier hold up the red scarf, which seemed to be given by red shirts protesters, after small skirmish with red shirts protesters near Thai Com in Pathumthani province on April 9.
photo: Yu-Kyung Lee

A soldier hold up the red scarf, which seemed to be given by red shirts protesters, after small skirmish with red shirts protesters near Thai Com in Pathumthani province on April 9. As the government has cut off transmission of the red shirts’ mouth piece TV, ‘People Channel’ (or ‘D station’) along with the independent website Prachatai and hundreds others, thousands of red shirts protesters staged a demonstration at Thai Com, which is a satellite provider of P channel. The blockade of critical media has fuelled extreme anger among red shirts protesters who had eventually turned to be violent next day.

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