At least 85 people were killed and hundreds more wounded on Thursday (May 19) when Thai security forces, led by the army, opened fire on pro-democracy protesters, known as the red-shirts, in Bangkok.
The crackdown was the culmination of weeks of protests by the the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), which was demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and reforms to the Thai political system.
The crackdown was brutal, with security forces using live ammunition, tear gas, and water cannons. The death toll was the highest of any single day of violence in Thailand’s recent history.
With deaths mounting red-shirt leaders took to the main stage and told those standing firm to go home. It’s over they were told. The leaders would surrender to the army and people were advised to leave by an alleged safe corridor.
However, for many going home was not such as easy task. Many came from up country. They had been bused to Bangkok by UDD officials or politicians. They had slept on the pavements, used the facilities provided and eaten from the plethora of food stalls. The rural poor, many had not a satang to their name, let alone knowledge of how to get from where they were back to their tiny village.
As the red-shirt leaders walked to the Royal Thai Police headquarters to surrender, the abandoned, confused, and fearful supporters headed to Wat Pathum Wanaram directly opposite, where they hoped they would find sanctuary and assistance. Instead they found death.
As looters ravaged and burnt shops in Central World and others surrounding the Ratchaprasong intersection protest site, Thai army soldiers moved along the overhead BTS Skytrain and began to shoot at protesters in the temple.
By the morning six people were dead, including volunteer medical personnel, and it required a human shield of police standing shoulder to shoulder before any of the traumatised survivors would make the 50 metre crossing from the temple to the Royal Thai Police headquarters opposite, where arrangements were being made to send them home.
Bangkok red-shirt protest crackdown carnage
May 20, 2010 photo slide gallery
Photos John Le Fevre
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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