UPDATED: Deadly Protests in Bangkok

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.

UPDATED LINKS:

- 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.

Jodi