Songkran Battle for Bangkok April 8 – 13, 2009 (video)

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For five days in April 2009 the “red-shirt” pro-democracy movement under the umbrella of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) besieged Thailand’s Government House, demanding the resignation of Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

6.26 am April 8 and red-shirt supporters jam the streets around Thailand Government House
6.26 am April 8 and red-shirt supporters jam the streets around Government House John Le Fevre

An estimated 150,000 people attended the so-termed D-Day mass rally and over the the next five days the gatherings were still attracting large crowds.

On April 9, taxi drivers blocked access to the Victory Monument traffic circle in the Ratchathewi district, northeast of central Bangkok.

One of Bangkok’s busiest traffic circles, it is also a major commuter transportation terminal catering to a large number of private and public bus services, a BTS Skytrain station and a nearby expressway.

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Thailand Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, declared the next day a public holiday, adding an extra day to the Songkran (Thai New Year) holidays due to commence on the weekend.

By the morning of April 10, more than 2,000 people were camped at the Victory Monument traffic circle, while some 5,000 people remained at the main protest site in front of Thailand’s Government House.

On the fifth day the situation deteriorated with increasing levels of violence as the red-shirts seized control of areas outside of the protest area.

Asean heads flee 14th Summit

A state of emergency was declared in Bangkok after protestors stormed the 14th Asean Economic Summit in Pattaya
A state of emergency was declared in Bangkok after protesters stormed the 14th Asean Economic Summit in Pattaya John Le Fevre

On April 12 red-shirt protesters stormed the 14th Asean Economic Summit in Pattaya causing the heads of the 10 Asean member states plus those from six regional dialogue partners to flee and the Summit postponed.

In response Mr Veijajiva declared a state of emergency in Bangkok.  (See: Thailand Prime Minister dead man walking as Asean leaders flee Pattaya).

With the Thai military now on the streets, red-shirt protesters extended their blockade of Government House, blocking road intersections with government buses and erecting blockades at others.

At one point an army tank rammed several taxis blocking an intersection, but quickly withdrew as protesters rallied. Late in the evening the first casualties began to arrive as the result of clashes with unidentified groups of people.

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On the sixth day, April 13, the violence inexplicably increased until protesters were openly battling the Thai army on the streets of Bangkok .

The video above is a compilation shot over those days, at the height of the 2009 hot season, a time when the country is traditionally celebrating Songkran, the Thai New Year, with vigorous water fights, not violent clashes with assault rifles and petrol bombs.

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Feature video & photo John Le Fevre

 

 

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John Le Fevre is an Australian national with more than 40 years experience as a journalist, photographer, videographer and editor.

He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia, with stints in the Middle East, the USA, and England.

He has covered major world events including Operation Desert Shield/ Storm, the 1991 pillage in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010, and 2014 Bangkok political protests.

In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.

Most recently he was the Thailand editor/ managing editor of AEC News Today . Prior to that he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.

In the mid-80s and early 90s he owned JLF Promotions, the largest above and below the line marketing and PR firm servicing the high-technology industry in Australia. It was sold in 1995.

Opinions and views expressed on this site are those of the author’s only. Read more at About me

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