Agam's Gecko
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Fruit-sellers and soldiers
Soldiers rested on Tuesday morning as the red-shirts began dispersing from Central Bangkok.
Photo: AP / Vincent Thian

eaders of the Thaksin "revolution" this morning urged their followers to return peacefully to their homes, and surrendered themselves to police. Bangkok is already returning to the normal peaceful chaos of the Songkran tradition, and the small trucks loaded with water festival revellers and barrels of the cleansing substance have been making the rounds in my neighbourhood today. With the Thai New Year celebrations nearly ruined by the upheaval of the previous four days, the government has extended the public holiday through the end of the week.

During the very early hours of this morning, as the roving red bands of arsonists and mayhem masters gradually retreated to their sit-in site at Royal Plaza, the rioters left a trail of damage behind them. More buses were set alight and petrol bombs were thrown into a number of buildings, including the Education Ministry. Earlier on Monday, after threatening to explode an LPG tanker to destroy a compound of flats in Din Daeng, the rioters had also thrown petrol bombs into the apartment complex itself. Residents extinguished the fire by themselves.

Neighbourhood firefighter
A local resident whose house was in danger of catching fire, shouts for help to extinguish a bus set alight by rioters early Tuesday morning.
Photo: AP / David Longstreath
Around 1000 rioters last night attacked a neighbourhood in Petchaburi Soi 5 and 7 as they retreated to Royal Plaza, destroying cars and motorcycles and firing guns at the Darul Amarn mosque. Angry residents armed themselves with sticks and pipes and fought off the invaders, returning home as police forced the red shirts away.

Two armed men on motorcycle opened fire on a military checkpoint near Mahboonkrong just before midnight, critically wounding one soldier. Just before 3 am a group of men in a pickup fired at soldiers at Thukchai intersection, but there were no casualties.

Back at the Royal Plaza, the uprising's leaders vowed to make a last stand. One of the core leaders, Veera Musikhapong, was particularly defiant in offering his supporters' lives for Thaksin's cause. "I urge all our friends to come and gather with me here. If we are to die, let's die here," he said.

But Khun Abhisit's very strong, principled, and I dare say inspiring address to the nation last night was having the desired effect. Many of the protesters encamped on the Plaza gradually drifted away during the night, leaving only around 2,000 remaining by morning.

Veera Musikhapong
Veera Musikhapong (centre), a core leader of the "Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship" leaves the protest area after surrendering himself to authorities this morning.
Photo: AP / Apichart Weerawong
Veera Musikhapong announced the end of the seige of the capital this morning by asking his red-shirted people to board the buses provided by the government for their return home, and assuring them that "the police will take good care of you."

Soon afterwards it was revealed by police that three men had been arrested in a pickup parked near the Chong Nonsri skytrain station (again this is in my neighbourhood, the same intersection where citizens chased off red-shirt road-blockers last Friday morning, see video here). Also seized with these men were 49 petrol bombs, four handguns and 77 bullets. One of them admitted that they were paid 5,000 baht to firebomb the Bangkok Bank headquarters and the CP Tower on Silom Road. They had received a 2,000 baht advance, about $57.

Going home
Some demonstrators took their own transportation home, while most opted for more comfortable buses supplied by the government.
Photo: Reuters / Sukree Sukplang
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, whose future looked very doubtful after the fiasco in Pattaya on Saturday, has emerged from this crisis looking very strong indeed. Such episodes are unfortunately common in Thailand's recent history, but none has ever been handled so competently and transparently, and with so little bloodshed. Both confirmed deaths were caused by the "protesters" although there are unconfirmed reports today that one man who was injured in clashes with troops yesterday morning has also died.

As the red-shirts travel back to their homes today, I again hope that at least some of them will reflect on their actions and on what they accomplished, and for whose benefit. That obviously didn't take place after they did such damage to their country's reputation in Pattaya, but perhaps enough has transpired since then to finally provoke some introspection.

Here's a sample of what they need to ponder. This very short clip was recorded by a citizen from the 24th floor of the CMMU building overlooking Vipavadi Road, near the Din Daeng triangle. The incident happened in the pre-dawn hours of Monday. The person who posted it to YouTube offers it as evidence that the red-shirts in this, the longest and most difficult situation of what would be a very difficult day, were the ones who first resorted to violence, and that the soldiers acted properly to defend themselves. The poster offers encouragement and thanks for every soldier's forbearance as they endeavour to protect the citizens.

Thaksin's "peaceful protesters" with their "empty hands" score a direct hit with a petrol bomb on the ranks of soldiers in a defensive line, then plow through them with a car.

A couple more video links for those interested:


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