Bangkok, the 16th of May 2010 [PDN]: Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva last night, in a public broadcast from the 11th Infantry Barracks, defended his decision to use force in the dispersal of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) protesters. He argued that it was the only resort after peace negotiations broke down with the key Red Shirt leaders on Thursday. The premier also revealed that the roads in and around the main Red Shirt Ratchaprasong rally site have been barricaded by the military, with water and food trucks being prevented from entering the site in an attempt to force the protesters to disband.
On Saturday, following the announcement of that the death toll had officially reach 22, Red Shirt leader Nattawut Saikua pleaded, from the Ratchaprasong rally stage, that the government end this current violent crackdown and return to the negotiation table. Peace talks and the premiers proposed ‘road map’ to recovery were taken off the table after the Red Shirts further demanded that various government officials including the prime minister and deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban hand themselves over to the Department of Special Investigations for their involvement in the deaths of 20 civilians following the April 10 clashes. Suthep complied with the Red Shirts demands although was later found to have been visiting the DSI in a formal capacity where no charges or investigations took place.
As of Sunday morning security personnel and military forcers had cordoned of approximately a 4-5km radius around the Ratchaprasong rally site in which certain parts, primarily the Lumpini Park area, have been declared ‘live firing zones.’ In response to the organised crackdown, Red Shirt protesters have been forced to defend themselves using crude projections, home made explosives and rockets whilst various black-clad guards have been seen sporting grenade launchers and assault rifles reminiscent of the group responsible for firing on soldiers during the failed April 10 crackdown. In response to the governments order for soldiers to use live rounds and snipers the Red Shirt protesters have begun setting fire to car tyres in an attempt to create a smoke screen.
Since the UDD’s protests begun on the 12th of March 2010 over 50 people have lost their lives whilst more than 1,200 have been injured. As the country threatens to descend into a civil war, there seems to be no end in sight with further hundreds of anti-government supporters expected to converge in the nation’s capital over the next few days. The Red Shirts calling for re-enforcements over the past two months is not a new development, however; this time there is obviously the added worry that the travelling protesters will be coming prepared for a fight.