More Deadly Clashes in Central Bangkok

Photo courtesy of Sean Ogle

UPDATE, MAY 19: APCs advancing on Silom and at Sala Daeng. Live updates via Bangkok Pundit’s Blog, the Reuters blog and on my Twitter stream. Am safely away from the protest area. Big, black plume of smoke rising over the city.

Also, for the many who have asked about my landlady: she has safely left the area, but sadly her dog died when he was startled during a grenade attack – he fell on his neck and she was unable to bring him to a hospital as the area was under fire. So sad.

ADDITIONAL UPDATE: Two photosets taken by friends are well worth seeing, as they depict the charred remains of the underpass/intersection where I live. From the fearless Vaitor, a photoset of Din Daeng from May 16th, and from my neighbour Mark, a photoset from today (May 17) when he briefly returned to pick up his passport and valuables.

UPDATE: I have now safely made it out of my area, and am staying north of the city centre near Lat Prao with a generous friend. Jumping into a cab while grenades went off around me and gunfire echoed in the street was an experience I will not forget anytime soon. I tipped my cabbie well. And it looks like I got out at a good time;  tweets from those stuck in their buildings with no escape detailed the series of explosions, fires and gunshots  that punctuated their afternoon. Below is a picture of the intersection next to my place, at 4:30pm. Not good.

I am currently well north of the Din Daeng triangle, and walking through the streets of Lat Prao is surreal; no one looks worried, business goes on as always and you would never know that chunks of Bangkok are deeply embroiled in a fierce street battle.  I took my daypack, computer and passport – and enough clothes for a week. I will likely head down to one of the islands for some beach time early this week.

* * *

I was an I was in the middle of putting together a post on the craziest bus rides in Burma, when the situation here in Bangkok deteriorated more than it already had.

For those at home, here is the crash course: after protesting since mid-March, the red shirts’ standoff with the Thai government has turned violent. This is not new: April 10th marked the first spate of violence, and there have been several other long nights since then. However, in the last 2 days, swaths of central Bangkok – central, commercial areas – have been turned into war zones: snipers on the roofs, army in the streets, grenades being lobbed about and many injuries and deaths. At this point (late Saturday at 9:15pm), the Erawan Hospital has announced a total of 51 deaths since these protests started in March, which comes close to Black May’s total of 52. As I type this and the booms sound outside, there is no question that the 52 number will be surpassed before this is over.

Earlier this evening, the PM went on television to address the nation. In the last few days, he has been quite silent, and we were all curious to hear what he had to say. His presser, in a nutshell: we cannot back down now, and the only way to continue to move Thailand to normalacy is to finish this operation. This does not bode well for the next few days.

Here is a picture at the end of Rajwitee Soi 2, right next to my Soi (Soi 4). It shows the barricades that were set up during the night, with tyres and bamboo and banners.

From the exact same spot, I took the following picture but facing 45 degrees to the left, at 6pm:

As you can see, the intersection is filled with smoke, and tyres are being burnt at the end of the street. A huge crowd of onlookers had gathered and were taking pictures or watching, and all the while more blasts were coming from the end of the road (where the fires are), as grenades were being lobbed from all directions at the intersection. Note: none of these grenades were being shot in my direction.

I had actually ventured down my street in order to see if I could grab a cab to a friend’s place, but watching the intersection and the bottleneck of traffic as cars and motos scrambled away, I went back to my place with extra water, food and a much needed bag of crisps.

This is the view on the way back to my place:

At this point, I am holed up in my apartment at the end of my alley, and on a ground floor place so not susceptible to any gunfire. Moreover, there is an army base at the end of my soi, and residents who have lived here for years have assured me that it is safer to stay put for the moment than to venture out and try and get a cab. As a result, I am staying put for the night and plan on making a move – hopefully to a beach for a week – tomorrow.  Let me reiterate: I would not be sitting here posting on this crisis if my life were in danger.

However, it is very sad to watch a city you’ve grown to love tear itself apart at the seams.

Some additional links/news stories (I will update as they come in):

The Thai Gov’t has postponed school term start date to May 24 (from May 17), on the Prime Minister’s orders. (Sunday)

BBC News on the Live Fire Zone in Bangkok. Update: New BBC report on today (May 15th)’s clashes in Ratchaprarop. Updated report from May 16th, summarizing the day’s activities is also online.

Update: Chilling account of the killing zone near Din Daeng from Nick Nostitz, as well as a tenant at the Complete’s video of the events Nick describes.

Update: Report from Nation Multimedia on one of their photographers who was shot on Saturday.

Update: NYT Asia editor Tom Fuller’s personal reflection on this chaotic week in Bangkok & his Seh Daeng interview that ended in attempted assassination.

From Bangkok Pundit, pictures of the dead on Ratchaprarop (around the corner from where I live). Warning: graphic.

May 15 video from CNN on the designation of certain central Bangkok areas as ‘Live Fire zones’

Richard Barrow’s Bangkok Dangerous Map, updated to show the newly affected areas:
View Bangkok Dangerous – Red Shirts Rally March-May 2010 in a larger map

NYT’s article on today’s chaos and deadly clashes in Bangkok, written by Tom Fuller, the journalist who was interviewing Seh Daeng when Seh Daeng was shot in the head.

Pictures from The Nation State’s blog, some of which are graphic.

Photoset from the Daily Mail, including pictures of those who were shot.

CNN’s video showing a France24 journalist being shot as he lays on the ground, having already been hit prior.

Open thread on the New Mandala, Bangkok At War.

Kevin Revolinski’s escapades near his home in Silom.

And from earlier today, someone’s video take from the end of my street, facing toward Rachaprarop Street (to the left is Din Daeng intersection, currently covered in smoke):

And another video shot by a foreigner in his apartment, until the army actually called him to tell him to stop filming. You can hear the gunfire in the background.

Update: The Guardian’s photoset from May 16th’s deadly clashes is also live.

Update: The Big Picture’s powerful photoset on the clashes this weekend are well worth viewing.

Finally: one of the more ironic typos in a long time – this is the sign the army posted near my place to warn people that it was a Live Firing Zone. Except….

I will update more as it comes in, likely tomorrow – though if I am on my way to safer ground, it will be in the next few days.

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