No reporter is closer to the action in Bangkok than Mark MacKinnon of the Toronto Globe and Mail. In fact, his reporting mate from the Independent, Andrew Buncombe, was struck down by an army shotgun blast. MacKinnon writes:
The day had begun in dramatic fashion. After nine weeks of crippling protests and six days of deadly clashes with Red Shirts around Bangkok, the army had begun a final assault on the main protest camp in the city centre. Armoured personnel carriers crashed through the crude bamboo-and-tire fortress the anti-government demonstrators had built to defend themselves. . . .
. . . we pressed on to the Rajprasong [Red Shirt] stage area. There, life was continuing much as it had for the past month, even with soldiers and armoured personnel carriers now just a few blocks south – but with one ominous difference: the Red leadership was nowhere to be found. The men who had encouraged tens of thousands to risk their lives in the name of “democracy” – paralyzing the commercial heart of Bangkok in the process – had disappeared and left their followers to fend for themselves.
[Leaderless] protesters could be seen lighting the Chit Lom station of Bangkok’s SkyTrain system ablaze [and] broke into the 45-storey Central World shopping mall, looting and then torching. … Suddenly, the gunfire . . . came to a halt. … the military had declared a temporary pause in its operations. It was an opportunity . . . to see if anyone remained. … At the Red stage, a lone woman remained. . . . “I keep my promises,” was the simple answer given by 45-year-old Pusdee Ngamcam, a retired nurse. “I promised not to leave until [the government] dissolved parliament. They haven’t dissolved parliament, so I’m still here. I don’t know where everyone else is gone.”
Damning testimony, isn’t it? Simple question for Focal Point readers: President Vejjajiva, seemingly under no pressure to hold a reelection now, is nevertheless tarnished by the 82 dead. But do the somewhat, uh, discredited Red Shirts have a future?