Bangkok, the 21st of May 2010 [PDN]: As dawn broke over the smouldering city of Bangkok on Thursday, fire crews and concerned residents had already extinguished 39 blazes throughout the Thai capitals central business and financial districts. Buildings most damaged by Wednesday’s rampage of destruction were; Central World shopping complex, the Maleenont Building (which houses Channel 3 television), the Siam and Scala cinemas, Centre One shopping centre, the Metropolitan Electricity Authority’s Klong Toei office, bank branches (mostly belonging to Bangkok Bank) and convenience stores.
Bangkok’s clean-up has already begun with CRES spokesmen anticipating a Monday resumption of the majority of businesses affected by the 9-week long protests. Security personnel, Sanitary Department workers and local residents have already begun to largely clear the majority of the Lumpini Park, Sala Daeng Intersection and areas around the Thai Red Cross. The main Red Shirt staging ground around the Ratchaprasong intersection is still yet to be cleared as intelligence officer’s report possibilities that a small group of Red Shirt radicals may be still in hiding amongst the buildings surrounding the intersection.
Worryingly, during cleanup activities around the Chidlom and Ploenchit intersections soldiers uncovered a large containment of explosive materials hidden inside and underneath a heavy vehicle which had been crudely wired, but not armed, to the base of a structural concrete pylon supporting the BTS Skytrain. Explosive experts have since dismantled the crude device and have transported the chemicals away for futher investigation. Initial estimates state that if the device had been detonated it would have largely destroyed anything within a 100m radius, possibly bringing down the Skytrain network in that area.
Thursday saw the surrender of yet three more key Red Shirt leaders, bring the total to 7, including; Jatuporn Promphan, Natthawut Saikua, Vipoothalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Kwanchai Praipana, Veera Musikapong, Weng Tojirakarn and Kohkaew Pikunthong. All have been charged with violating the emergency decree and for their involvement in what is being labelled ‘terrorist acts,’ which all 7 men have denied. At present security forces continue to hunt for hardline Red Shirt leaders Arisman Pongruangrong and Suporn Atthawong who are believed to have fled the capital following Wednesday’s destruction and the surrender of their fellow leaders.
Along with the surrender of key Red Shirt leaders, bus loads of protesters who had come from many North and North Eastern provinces were beginning to be transported home on Thursday. Many protesters had come from their rural home towns with little more than the clothes on their backs in support of the Red Shirt cause, now seemingly being transported back to their homes amidst a significantly defeated atmosphere. So far the death toll since the commencement of protests back in March has been estimated at nearly 100, whilst those injured in the confrontations are thought to number up to 2000.