Thailand: Countdown To The Showdown


May 18, 2010:  A week of growing violence in the capital has left over 40 dead and some 300 wounded. Since the demonstrations began on March 12th, over 60 have died, and over 1,500 have been wounded. The red shirt populists refuse to leave, and insist that new, and honest, elections be held to replace what they consider an upper class royalist dictatorship. The senior leadership of the government has urged the army to do whatever it takes to drive the red shirts out of the capital. But the generals are well aware of the fact that, in the last week, the troops, and many of their officers, have been very reluctant to mix it up with the red shirts (which often include a lot of women and children.) The red shirts are talking civil war now, and the reluctance of many troops to go after the red shirts indicates that the army is not entirely behind the current government.

The army has brought in 32,000 troops to surround the largest concentration of red shirts (over 5,000) in downtown Bangkok. Thus, even with lots of unenthusiastic troops, there should be enough to disperse the red shirts. Maybe. The governments has decreed that the red shirts are terrorists, and face two years in jail if arrested. But leading members of the Senate have offered to mediate peace talks, and several red shirts have accepted this. The government has not said where it stands, but this shows a split in the government over how to handle the situation.

The two months of increasing violent demonstrations have ruined tourism, and most commerce, in the capital. Most Western countries are warning their citizens to stay away from the capital.

In the south, the government is having more success against the Islamic terrorists there. More of the local Moslems are willing to provide information, and the police are building a clearer picture of who the Islamic radicals are, and what they are capable of.

May 17, 2010: The government set a deadline for red shirts to leave the capital by today. The deadline was ignored. The pro-red shirt army major general Khattiya Sawasdipol died. He was shot on the 13th, apparently by a sniper, as he gave an interview to a foreign reporter on his populist views, and why  he supports the red shirts.

May 15, 2010: Embassies in the capital are beginning to close, and ordering their personnel to stay inside. Troops are now restricting the movement of food, and other supplies, in the city, in an attempt to starve the red shirts out.

May 14, 2010: Troops began firing on red shirts in the capital, after efforts to block the movement of red shirts in the capital failed. Many of the soldier appear to be firing inaccurately on purpose.

May 13, 2010: A pro-red shirt army major general, Khattiya Sawasdipol, was shot in the head. He was downtown in the capital, giving an interview with a foreign journalist, when he was hit. Sawasdipol was believed to be a key strategist for the red shirts. Many members of the armed forces agree with, or sympathize, with the red shirts.

May 12, 2010:  Troops have been told to shoot on sight, anyone caught in certain downtown areas of the capital where the red shirts have been active. The government has ordered water and power to be cut in areas where the red shirts are believed to be living. While there is one large concentration of 6,000 red shirts downtown in the capital, there are believed to be thousands of others who come out as needed.

May 11, 2010: The red shirts refused government demands to disperse, or face violent expulsion. Since the red shirts contain so many factions, there is no supreme leader, and no way to get agreement on this government demand. The red shirts are united on demanding new, and clean, elections. But the government refuses (believing that they would lose, since the red shirts do represent most of the population.)

May 9, 2010: The government accused army major general, Khattiya Sawasdipol as being pro-red shirt  and the brains behind the successful red shirt operations, which have paralyzed the capital for two months.

May 8, 2010: Thousands of additional red shirts have entered the capital, answering calls for reinforcements. There are also red shirt demonstrations in many other parts of the country, but the big one is in the capital, and that one gets the most attention.

May 7, 2010:  In the south, a teacher was killed by four men, who sped away in their vehicle. But one of them was later identified , and is being sought. In the capital, someone fired on police, killing two of them, and disrupting life in normally calm downtown neighborhoods.




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