UPDATED: Deadly Protests in Bangkok

Categories Thailand, Where Have I Been?

Today’s protests turned ugly here in Bangkok, with the current tally of injured at approximately 700, and 10-11 dead (depending on your news source) UPDATE: BBC now reporting 20 dead, including a Japanese reporter, and close to 850 injured. I didn’t plan to go anywhere near the protests today – most of the redshirts were amassed around Siam Square and the major commercial malls – but my seemingly innocuous plans of spending time with my friend Anjie were derailed when we found ourselves smack in the middle of protests again. With me was my friend Sean, who had come to the Khao San area to try and find his birthday present to himself: a guitar. We each got a little more than we bargained for.

Military helicopter circling above Kok Woa intersection.

The main rally site from my initial red shirts coverage is actually a stone’s throw away from the main tourist district of Khao San road, and today both converged with terrible results for Thailand. The reds mobilised near Kok Woa intersection, just off Khao San itself, while on Thanon Tanao (perpendicular to the intersection) army and reds faced off while curious tourists took pictures of them both. Late afternoon, a military helicopter flew over Kok Woa, dropping leaflets telling people to disperse as the army was coming to claim the area back.

Red shirt kid holds the leaflet that was dropped by the army helicopter

Reds were unmoved by the leaflets, and jeered and boo’d and gave the finger to the helicopter that circled above us.

Reds booing at the helicopter

Around 5pm, the helicopter, which had been circling lower and lower, swooped down between Democracy Monument and Kok Woa, dropping tear gas on the protesters. Reds came over with masks and water and tourist police instructed us to run if the helicopter came closer with the tear gas. Which it did. Which we did. But not before I snapped one quick photo (to the dismay of my eyes and throat).

Tear gas at Kok Woa intersection

Army helicopter above Khao San

This part of town was not the only source of conflict today, as the reds and the army also faced off at Chidlom BTS Station, and other areas of the city. For some incredible pictures of the army faceoff, see Richard Barrow’s blog Riot Police vs. Reds at Chidlom.

Just after I left from the Khao San area, things took a tragic turn. From those at the scene, there were many explosions, rounds of gunfire and total chaos. For updates that came live from Khao San area, see:

Newley’s Twitter stream – @newley, and he has just posted his pictures from last night as well (warning: some are graphic).
Daniel (@Eloren’s) Twitphotos
Andrew Marshall’s Twitter stream – @journotopia

- As always, also worth reading Bangkokpundit’s twitter stream – @bangkokpundit

- For a much more bird’s eye view of the chaos and downward spiral of today’s red shirt protests, please watch this BBC News video, taken by those who are actually paid to be in harm’s way.

- The rest of my photos from today’s crackdown are here.

- For those with a stomach for the gruesome, the
href=”http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=175122&op=1&o=all&view=all&subj=311248993851&aid=-1&oid=311248993851&id=100000320746262″>UDD (the red shirts) have posted pictures of the dead and injured on their Facebook fan page

- Reuters announces the death of its cameraman here.

- And, a very sobering image, from Newley Purnell of the dead on the main stage at Phan Fah.

The scariest thing for Thailand is that there’s no telling what will happen next. The reds have captured some soldiers and, per Newley’s eyewitness accounts, were parading them on the main stage. Though it’s midnight here after a long and ugly day, Thailand has seen many prior days of violence like this one, and it’s anyone’s guess where this may go. Until today, it has been astoundingly peaceful despite the thousands upon thousands of protesters in the streets. Hopefully the red leaders can appeal to their masses and ensure that they remain calm tonight.


- Bangkok’s Black Saturday, a post by a foreigner (@vaitor) who was shot during yesterday’s protests.
- Bangkok Pundit has done an excellent job of rounding up the foreign press’ coverage of the deadly riots. New (April 12th) BP links include video shot during the crackdown, pictures taken, and international news video shot.
- There is a long fiirst-hand account of the violence near Khao San by Nicolas Day at New Mandala: War at Khao San
- Nirmal Ghosh on the Spiral of Violence in Bangkok yesterday.
- The New York Times on yesterday’s protests: Violence Erupts in Thai Streets and on the aftermath: After Clashes, Thai Standoff Deepens.
- The Nation on yesterday: Our Darkest Hour.
- That BBC article with video from yesterday has been updated to reflect the death count of 18, not 9 people.
- Disturbing video and analysis from Patrick Winn at the Global Post: Hostages, Corpses after Political Clash in Bangkok.
- Reuters’ tribute to Hiro Muramoto, the Japanese journalist who was killed in yesterday’s protests.
- Simon Montlake in CSM on the crackdown.

- Nick Koleszar’s Thailand140 posts on the crackdown are extremely thorough.


9 comments to UPDATED: Deadly Protests in Bangkok

  1. Wow, thanks for the update. I am appalled that the pictures of the dead are being posted on Facebook. How sad.

  2. Nothing is sacred any longer – agree with Laura on the photos. On the other hand, how will the world know what is going on if stark images are censored? Ack.. Anyway, take care of yourself Jodi!

  3. Hi Laura & Jeannie: Thai society is different than the West in its tolerance and/or acceptance of violent pictures – just open a newspaper here and on any given day you might see a severed head or some other gory scene.

    Notwithstanding what the society is used to, I do understand them posting the pictures; initially some media had reported that only rubber bullets were used and that there were no redshirt casualties. As such, it makes sense to me that they'd publish these photos as a means of making the truth heard.

    I only hope that a resolution comes quickly for this country, without any more violence.

    Thanks for reading.

  4. I was there a week ago, walking along Ratchadamnoen, taking photos of the Red Shirts. It felt tense, but safe. I've been in Cambodia since Thursday by have been keeping an eye on the situation, and it seemed to be heating up. A friend of mine landed in Bangkok yesterday morning and I messaged him saying be careful, it seems to be building. He replied that it was all just Western media hype. Before I could tell him it was the Thai media that gave me the impression that tensions were increasing, it all exploded. My friend is safe. I got a text from him this morning. The entire message, verbatim, was, "oops.."

  5. I remember having a conversation with some other travelers a week ago about the demonstrations and how surprisingly peaceful they had been. It gave me hope that peaceful change was still possible in this work. It's so sad to see how things turn violent and you wonder where it's going to go.

    Thanks for keeping the rest of us informed with your first-hand accounts and links to other quality accounts. Stay safe!

  6. I was thinking about you and Gary and all the other travelers I know in Bangkok when I first heard about the escalation to violence. It is so strange because the Thai people, in general, seem peaceful and kind. This is the problem of the mob mentality. Everything started off calm and then turns to hysteria and, unfortunately, violence. Be safe.

  7. Damn, glad you're ok, please stay safe!

  8. Keep safe! Great citizen reporting. Sad for Thailand and the world.

    I thought the protests last year were bad, but this year is worse. We were going to use Thailand as one of our bases on our open ended world tour, but even last years violence helped change my mind.

    If things cool down by the time we get there, we might well visit Thailand in short bursts, but do not feel like it is a safe place for a family with a young child any longer for a long stay.

    Even friends of ours who love Thailand and have been visiting every year for extended stays for 20 years see things changing.

    Sad to see this.