Today, a relative lull. The red shirts presented a petition to one of the coalition parties to try to pressure him to withdraw from the coalition. (Did they get the idea from my blog?) They also tried to bully the press, and seized some TV equipment for a while. They were filmed covering up the surveillance cameras in the contested areas with trash bags, though if they're doing nothing wrong, one wonders why they'd want to hide it. (The same with shooing the press.) Tomorrow, they announced, they will parade two corpses which they stole from the hospital morgue around the streets of Bangkok. It will be a bizarre sort of "victory parade" since they believe that, once people have been killed, they have proved that Abhisit's government is an evil dictatorship. Other facts, like the four soldiers dead of bullet wounds, or the colonel blown up by a bomb, can be ignored. The sin of selectivity besets both sides, but most people in Bangkok seem to feel that the reds' amnesia is more egregious. I know this from walking around in a middle class (not high society) mall this afternoon and eavesdropping on people's conversations. If Bangkok alone were to decide the election, it would be a rout.
Television has punditry on every channel, and few facts. Every bit of the press footage is being looked at by everyone, and interpreted in every possible way. There is enough footage to fit every theory.
Still, there are a few nuggets emerging that everyone does seem to agree on, and which feed the conspiracy frenzy....
There seem to have been bullets from AK-47s ... not army issue ... I think the Thai army mostly buys American. Same problem with the grenades.
The colonel directing the army's actions last night was killed early on by a bomb. In fact, all the army's leaders got "taken out" quite quickly. How did they know?
A member of the orchestra has a close friend whose house was right next to the fracas in Phan Faa. He relates that two soldiers fled and hid out in his house. These soldiers insisted that the reds had hired out-of-town soldiers of their own and embedded them, with weapons, amongst themselves.
A question that perplexes me is this: if the soldiers were in fact ordered to kill red shirts, why didn't they just mow them down? The haphazardness of the red deaths points to something unplanned and unexpected. But the precision of the soldiers' casualties (ie their commanders) suggests something less random.
People are calling it a civil war, but I'm not sure it is. In a war, both sides are trying to kill the other. The goal of this battle, for the government, was not to hurt anyone yet still get them to stop occupying the business district. The goal for the reds was to get someone to shoot so as to gain the moral upper hand.
Neither party really got what it wanted. Somehow, the government did end up killing people. But the reds also lost the moral high ground by not exhibiting any "non-violence" tactics at all. Perhaps Dr. Weng should have shown a video of Gandhi; the reds would have seen that one sure-fire tactic for regime change is to just lie down and take it, for nothing moves people so much as bleeding heaps of people willing to be hurt for their beliefs.
It's been a quiet day and there's been a lot of reflecting and perhaps even self-recrimination. But with tomorrow's corpse parade, the lines may well harden again.
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