Thursday evening saw chaos and bloodshed in Bangkok’s main financial and banking district. Three people reported dead and over 70 injured after five explosions rocked the Silom area of the city. The Thai Government believes the blasts were caused by m79 grenades fired from within the anti-government red shirt camp.
Amid chaotic scenes, this correspondent saw several bloodied and screaming casualties being lifted into ambulances by Thai soldiers. Further down the street, hundreds of Thai soldiers and riot police hunkered down under the shelter provided by the overhead rail-line.
The first explosions took place hundreds of meters away from the main protest site which is at the Silom/Lumphini Park intersection. Three blasts were heard on the roof of Sala Daeng train station, followed an hour later by two more which went off in the area where pro-Government, anti-redshirt protestors had gathered over the past few evenings.
Later, blood and shrapnel was visible on the pavement and steps outside the coffee-shop and bank where the latter explosions took place, forty meters across from the tyre-and-bamboo barricade marking the entrance into the red shirt occupied-zone, which stretches almost two km down to Rajaprasong intersection and some of Bangkok’s plush shopping malls.
Shops and restaurants immediately shuttered their doors, fearing more blasts. However a mob of around twenty anti-red shirt protestors, calling themselves the ‘Love Silom’ group, returned to the interface outside Silom train station, breaking glass bottles and hurling the remnants at the red shirt line, and later turning their ire on the police. After almost one hour riot police moved in to stop this, driving the group, some of whom carried slingshots, down the Silom Road, while sustaining a barrage of bricks and glass bottles from the infuriated protestors.
People close to the explosions screamed abuse at red shirts, and chanted anti-Thaksin slogans, in reference to the former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and remains a continued target of pro-Government ire. “Thaksin wants to kill you”, shouted one man as journalists scurried for cover after the latter explosions.
Outside O’Reilly’s pub under Sala Daeng station, Mint, 29, said that she could not believe this was happening in Bangkok: “Thailand is not the same anymore, we now kill people on the street, other Thai people”.
Thursday’s explosions came after a confrontational few nights at Silom, where the ‘multi-colour’ or ‘no colour’ pro-Government groups gathered from early in the evening, chanting and taunting the red shirts gathered across the road. A mass pro-Government, anti-red shirt protest is scheduled for Royal Plaza today Friday, featuring many senior
personnel from the yellow shirt movement that helped oust red shirt affiliated Governments in 2006 and 2008.
Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva called an urgent security meeting after the attack, which Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said ”were fired from the red shirt side”, when speaking on Thai national TV at 11.30pm. Red shirt leaders have denied any responsibility for or link to the explosions. Five suspects, including red shirt Jaturon Noppaki were arrested, but later released. The four others were reported as anti-red shirt protestors.
By 2am riot police lined the Silom Road, while soldiers rested further down the road, close to the initial blasts at Sala Daeng. It was not clear whether a long-anticipated army crackdown on the red shirts was imminent. Army sources said that it could not happen immediately, given the high numbers of women and children among the red shirts. However in recent days senior army spokesmen have warned the red shirts to vacate the area, raising fears that a repeat or worse of the April 10 fighting that left 25 dead and 800 wounded is possible.
Earlier Thursday, in an indication that conflict could spread outside the capital, tense overnight negotiations eventually saw a train carrying soldiers south-bound released, after being held up by red shirts in Khon Kaen. The red shirts believed that the troops were en route to Bangkok to reinforce a planned suppression of the red shirt demonstration.Show