Agam's Gecko
Monday, April 13, 2009
Residents defend
Residents arm themselves with sticks to defend their community, April 13, 2009.
Photo: Reuters / Kerek Wongsa

he people of Krung Thep ("Groong Taeb" - the real name of this town, if written in full is around two paragraphs) began resisting the invasion of emergency-bringers in numerous incidents this afternoon, reflecting the attitude which we saw the first glimpse of in your host's own neighbourhood last Friday at 11 am (as shown at the end of this post).

This afternoon about 500 local residents in Yommaraj confronted red-shirts setting fires on the road, clashing with them after the rioters refused to put out their burning barricades. Vendors and residents at the Nang Lerng market made themselves into a guard formation to protect their property, shouting and shooing away the thugs.

Later in the evening a gang of red-shirts entered Nang Lerng market pushing the vendors outside. Local people suspected the intention was to burn down the market (understandable after all the arson today) and clashed with the red-shirts. But this time Thaksin's boys came armed, and they opened fire at the residents. Around a dozen people were hit; Pom Pholphanbua, aged 50, and Yutthakarn Joichoychod, aged 18, have now died in hospital.

Earlier, dozens of residents near the Soamanus Temple armed themselves with guns and other weapons and came out to battle the "protesters," screaming at them to leave and firing shots into the air. Exchanges of fire were reported before army troops managed to stop the confrontation. Late tonight more shootings were reported around the Wat Soamanus community. Other clashes between people celebrating the Songkran water festival and red-shirts celebrating arson and anarchy were also reported today.

Mr. Thaksin (should his nickname be "Toxin" or "Thugsin"? The first is a closer phonetic match) appeared on CNN around dinner time, claiming that his non-violent protesters were only struggling for peace and democracy. "They come with empty hands," he lied. "The death toll is very high," he also lied, quite uncomfortably I thought. The interviewer was not sufficiently up on the situation to even ask halfway informed questions.

Burned bus
Soldiers stand next to the burned shell of a city bus, April 13, 2009.
Photo: Reuters / Sukree Sukplang
A little while ago, PM Abhisit made another broadcast, as always these last days with his full cabinet around the table with him. I hope to find a translation later, because it was a very strong performance. He seems to be handling this extremely well, and looking stronger each time. He said that most of the city is now returning to normal, cleanup and removal of road obstructions has started, and most of the red-shirt protesters have now returned to their base at Royal Plaza. Some gangs are still roaming around.

I have begun to wonder if some of these thugs aren't using stimulants, and if so, is it provided to them like their money? Some of them appear to have lost complete control of themselves.

Many of the recorded scenes during the brutal attacks on Sunday at the Interior Ministry showed some of the attackers going absolutely insane, to the point of being restrained by fellow rioters. I'll not easily forget one man who stood on the roof of a smashed vehicle, stabbing his large Thai flag and pole through the broken windshield and into the passenger compartment, like a wild man. I'd like to think there wasn't a human inside at the time, but there may have been.

Another red-shirt who was standing on the same roof but beating on the car, felt compelled to restrain him. It wouldn't be easy for anyone to see his flag used in that way, but for the average Thai person especially. A rioter was offended, imagine that! All this is not going down well with the public, as we've seen today.

Abhisit Vejjajiva
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva spoke to the nation late on Monday night.
Photo: Thai TV Pool
PM Abhisit also referred in his address tonight to the "attempts from overseas" to distort the facts, of course meaning the chief instigator of this whole mess in his undisclosed location. Journalists have been given complete freedom to report directly from every incident, to get as close as they dare (and these are the risks they take voluntarily in order to report the truth). I haven't been able to detect the slightest whiff of censorship — CNN and BBC are normally interrupted at times like this, but there was no disruption or delay of Thaksin's interview this afternoon.

Having seen quite a number of Thai prime ministers in similar situations over the years, I'd have to say (politics absolutely aside) that the current guy is the one I'd want making decisions in a crisis like this one. He's showing his character at the moment, and I think many are impressed. He expressed deep regret for the deaths of two innocent citizens, thanked security forces for conducting themselves well, and thanked the citizens for their bravery and assistance on a difficult day.

Abhisit's future is looking much less doubtful than it did on Saturday in Pattaya. He apologized to the nation for not having the time to speak to them since the morning's first clashes, but by 11 pm he had definite progress to report. Addressing the several thousand red-shirt protesters remaining at Royal Plaza, he politely asked those who may disagree with rioting methods to leave the protest site and return to their homes for the sake of the nation, and he promised that their safety would be ensured by the authorities.

It frequently happens, as it did with the yellow-shirts last year, that participants who happen to change their minds and want to go home are not permitted to do so by their own "security" forces (thugs). Toxic Thugsin's lieutenants had better not pull that one at a time like this. Let those jolly country ladies go home if they want to.

The way things look at the moment, it's probably not necessary to clear the Plaza before dawn. They can probably sit there for days with nowhere to go, and enough force on the street to prevent a replay of the day that's now becoming known as "Black Songkran."


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