In the wake of a temporary disruption of the BTS Skytrain on Wednesday – the Red Shirt guards had entered the Chidlom station overnight and piled tires on the platforms, threatening to dump them on the tracks in order to prevent troop movement by train – the government has stepped up security at key intersections and transit stations. The Skytrain disruption lasted until 10 am, ruining the commutes of tens of thousands of Bangkok residents and putting the streets into chaos.
The police and army have set up checkpoints in a wider circle around the main protest area, stretching back as far along Sukhumvit Road as the Asoke intersection. This is three stations before the Chidlom station that was threatened by the Red Shirts. There appear to be maybe 100 officers and soldiers at the Asoke intersection, but no active stopping and searching of vehicles.
A half-dozen soldiers were posted on the overhead walkways that span the intersection and connect the Skytrain to the subway. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this level of security.
Down on the street there were a pair of water trucks along with a mobile fire fighting unit / water cannon. These checkpoints and stationing of troops are probably in response to another incident this week in which about 2,000 of the Red Shirts decided to conduct a “tour” and head to a wet market in the north side of the city to reach out to residents and explain their side of the situation. The army, tipped off, set up a blockade and engaged the protesters, who eventually retreated. Unfortunately, one soldier was killed, apparently by friendly fire.
One of the more interesting sights was this portable audio truck (beneath the pedestrian bridge) from which soldiers are broadcasting “information” (pro-government publicity) and patriotic songs. I’m sure the guests at the Westin (to the right of this picture) and the Grand Sheraton (to the left) are really pleased about that.
The Skytrain is running shortened hours until only 8:00 pm each night. Whether or not this will be resolved soon is anyone’s guess. I get the impression that the government is taking a “wait and wear them down” approach, figuring that the tighter they close the access to the protest area, the harder it will be for the protesters to sustain their momentum. Will it work? Who knows?