Sunday, 11 April 2010

Red Shirts: The Battle turns Violent

It is Sunday the 11th of April as I write this. Yesterday, in the city of Bangkok, approximately 18 people were killed and hundreds injured in street fighting (the numbers vary). The details as to who did what, when and why, are far from fixed, but it is clear that a new stage has been reached between the conservative, Bangkok supported government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and the Red Shirts of provincial Thailand.

Yesterday the two sides pushed each other back and forth in the city of Bangkok, and the conflict escalated to a new level. Bullets flew and people fell. The main tourist entertainment areas of Sukhumvit (the wealthier centre of the city)—filled with tourist hotels, malls, and restaurants—were closed for business. Here, the skytrain stations were closed, and the streets filled with soldiers and protestors. Before the 11th I was willing to tell potential visitors that it was still ok to visit Krung Thep—The City of Divine Beings (Bangkok, City of Angels), but now I would not.

For weeks the main tourist destinations of the city, the Grand Palace area, and the areas around were filled with Red Shirts, as this was their main rallying point. Even so, it was still safe and possible to visit the tourist sites (in fact, the Reds themselves were a tourist site), however, now most of these sites are blocked off by police, and the safety factor has declined.

So far Sunday the 12th has been quiet. Both sides have pulled back somewhat, however, no ground has been given. The Reds have shown great resolve, and political skill. The government less so. I now believe that the end of this process will be a back down by the current government, which is steadily losing credibility, and new elections. Will this bring peace and prosperity to Thailand? I do not know, but I suspect not.

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