Making my way across Bangkok yesterday, my taxi was brought to an abrupt halt by a group of cars which had stopped right in the middle of the street. A bewildered-looking motorcycle taxi driver came up to the window and told us we couldn’t go any further because there was substantial gunfire up ahead and ‘many deaths’. My taxi driver soon started freaking out about the incident on the phone and described the situation to me as ‘the army just started shooting people with real bullets, there have been many deaths’
I was obviously shocked, but to be frank, given the substantial amount of rumour and exaggeration present in the current situation, I sort of discounted the intensity of the Army aggression being described to me. After all ‘red shirt’ supporters were relaying me the information.
Yet today it turns out that they weren’t exaggerating much. It seems that the use of ‘live fire’ zones, and a vague application of the term ‘terrorist’ to protesters, (The army is allowed to use live bullets against ‘terrorists’ within the protesters, but how does one judge who exactly is a terrorist? How many innocent people will be killed, but then labelled a ‘terrorist’ after the fact) has led to horrific violence from the military, which was amazingly witnessed first hand by New Mandala’s Nick Nostitz who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, in Din Daeng when the army just opened up with live ammo:
The protesters moved the tires further along the road, in front of the Shell gas station near Soi Rang Naam. I positioned myself at the gas station as cover, in case the army would open fire. And straight away the army opened fire. Maybe 5 meters from me, on the road a small group of protesters was stuck behind the tires while bullets passed by. It made a sickening sound when bullets hit the protester who had just joked around with us – in the arm and in the stomach. A few protesters on our side tried to throw a rope over to pull the injured protester to us, but it did not work. The shooting never stopped. Another protester, who tried to crawl away, was hit in the leg and the shoulder. One guy managed to run over to us. I began losing any sense of time. One more of the group managed to cross over to us. Another guy was hit in the arm. After a while the two lightly injured guys ran over to us, one of them falling and crawling into safety. I feared he was hit again.
With terror I realised that the soldiers began moving to us. Shots were fired into the gas station. I hid first behind a car parked there, but had a bad feeling that I was in the very wrong spot, and that I had to get out as fast as I could. I ran back to the toilets, about 40 meters, realising that I was shot at while I was running. My legs nearly gave in. Naked terrible unbelievable fear.
Right after the man with the gut shot was dragged there as well. I took a few photos, and made it over the wall as well.
Definitely read the full account from Nick Nostitz at New Mandala here. He bravely took tons of photos as the army was firing on people who CLEARLY are unarmed and simply hiding for their life behind rubber tires. His description of the following chase by soldiers is no less shocking.
I’ve found another account of the situation, a video captured of what appears to be the exact situation Mr. Nostitz describes, but from a rooftop, via video. Again, note how these are clearly unarmed protesters. Video here.
I’m afraid there’s much more of this kind of violence to come. Today the government is reported to have completely sealed off the main Ratchprasong area, they are attempting to starve the protesters out of their main rally point. ‘Live fire’ zones are set up around the area. Sooner or later the protesters are likely to make a push in order to get food or water.
Bernd Mechsner is an expatriate who lives right at the centre of the sealed-off protest area:
Our neighbourhood is completely sealed off with the army’s “Live Fire Zones”. The government reported that 32′000 troops are controlling the area and they have got the order “shoot to kill”. The government has confirmed today that the troops are authorised use live ammunition and to shoot anyone approaching them closer than 30m.
No supplies of food or anything else is coming into our neighbourhood; we are now living of our reserves. Yesterday and until the early morning hours we could hear nearly constant gunfire and some louder explosions from different directions. We haven’t slept properly for many days now.
Red shirts are now reported to be moving women and children into a temple within their zone. The army has a set a 2:30pm curfew today (yes, an afternoon curfew) whereby anyone moving in the streets around the main protest area risks being shot, with live ammunition. It’s 2:28pm now. (UPDATE: The government ended up cancelling the official curfew today, for now at least.)
Again, the main protest zone is meanwhile being sealed off from food supplies. This crack-down has become a slaughter already and I fear it’s going to get far worse in the next day or so.
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