Firsthand Account of Thai 'Red Shirt' Violence: Yes, MSM Got It Wrong
I had intended to switch to the other line and take an eastbound train home, but the trains were no longer running that way, and beneath the station were frenzied Red Shirts. Locals scrambled to the lower platform to head in the other direction, and eventually a BTS supervisor explained in English that the tourists should do the same.
Tourist had no clue regarding the severity of the situation. A kind couple from the UK, on vacation with their child, latched on to me and rode the Skytrain north of the troubled area. I explained as best I could what was going on: they could attempt to take the “khlong,” or the canal boats that run east and west just north of the line we'd just been kicked off of, or they could take a taxi. I advised against the khlong as the canal would run under a bridge that I expected the Red Shirts would be occupying, so we agreed to take a taxi together and I would escort them to their hotel.
It took some time to find a willing taxi. We paid double the normal fare, but gladly. We drove along New Petchburi Road heading east towards Nana Road, and we crossed the elevated fly near the Central World Mall and we saw the Red Shirts gathered. I have seen many protests and mobs before, but never like this. There were thousands upon thousands of Red Shirts and a thin line of riot police.
Sukhumvit Road between Nana Road and Asok is lined with little vendors and kiosks, many run by deaf mutes. They were scrambling to clear their goods and take down their stalls. The Red Shirts had arrived and were setting up roadblocks on the westbound lane of Sukhumvit.
Throughout the trip I received text messages from friends, reminding me of Gangs of New York when the telegraph reports are read as narration:
BTS Closed. Avoid
Avoid World Tard (Slang for Central World Chitlom Mall, formerly World Trade Mall)
I met other expats at a local American-owned eatery. Canucks, Brits, and other “Farang” with their Thai spouses, while four BTS stops away was raging hell. I walked to my apartment watching ambulance after ambulance. I walked past a young Thai couple on a moped, still in their red outfits, not bleeding or visibly hurt, but just staring blankly, perhaps in shock from what they had escaped.
I didn't really know until I saw the local news coverage from home. Protesters beating cops and soldiers to the ground; terrified and outnumbered soldiers unloading their M16s as their armored car was swarmed. Frightened media, some bleeding, fleeing the Red Shirts, who viewed whichever news outlet they represented to be hostile to the cause. Red shirts carrying injured comrades out, women, people who looked like your local shop owner or hairdresser. Shot, beaten, bleeding, crying from clubs, bullets, tear gas, and the crush.
The soldiers are young, 18 and 19, conscripts unlucky enough to be drafted and probably fighting people from villages or towns no different than their own. I watched the heartbreak until 1:00 a.m.
Next morning, the papers told the tale of "events." I had breakfast at a British pub and was advised by a delivery man who saw me with the Bangkok Post to not read it; it says the Red Shirts are bad.
The official death toll is around 15, including one AP photographer. Injured are reported near one thousand. I would suspect the actual death toll is much, much higher, as both sides had guns and both sides used “spray and pray.”
The Red Shirts came looking for violence, got what they wanted, and now use it as a rallying cry to overthrow the current government. The conflict is far from over, and we don't know how bad it will it get and how quickly.
And, as of moments ago (Monday afternoon, EST):
The Election Commission decided on Monday evening with majority vote to dissolve the ruling Democrat Party in connection with donation cases.
Commissioners voted 4-1 to dissolve the ruling party.
Don't expect this news to halt anything.