The violence in Thailand, which the Atlantic Wire explored last week, is continuing to escalate as the military clashes with anti-government protesters in Thailand. The now two-month stand-off came to a head today as government troops broke the siege by the Red Shirts and sympathetic civilians, killing at least five. Red Shirt leaders have formally called off the protest, but chaos in the streets continues as protesters' barricades burn and armored vehicles patrol for remaining dissidents. The Boston Globe has photos here. Here's a rough guide to understanding what's happening today.
- Bangkok 'Locked Down' as Conflict Worsens The Wall Street Journal's James Hookway reports, "Enraged mobs of antigovernment protesters set fire to swaths of Bangkok's priciest real estate Wednesday, sending thick columns of smoke into the hazy air and stoking fears that Thailand's chronic political divides could degenerate into an even-deeper conflict. ... Mobs of roving protesters singled out economic targets for special attention, setting Thailand's stock-exchange headquarters ablaze and torching several banks and the headquarters of the city's electricity provider." The government established a curfew for the first time since 1992.
- All About Rural Poverty The Wall Street Journal's Andrew Walker looks to rural Thailand, where he says two thirds of the country lives. "Armored vehicles and snipers may win the battle to push the red-shirt protesters out of Bangkok, but the government is losing the war to hold back the course of Thailand's history. ... Thailand has been very successful in managing absolute poverty, but it has failed to deal with relative poverty." The rural Thai have become less absolutely poor but more relatively poor compared to the urban classes, sowing rage and political instability.
- The Violence Is Not Over Time's Hannah Beech explains, "The momentous decision by Red Shirt honchos to end their thousands-strong rally, which has paralyzed Bangkok's business district and dealt a body blow to Thailand's reputation as a stable democracy, should have been good news. The government announced triumphantly that the military's security offensive, which began on Wednesday morning, had ceased. But even as Red Shirt leaders surrendered to the authorities on Wednesday afternoon — three main architects of the protest movement are still on the run — sympathizers wept and vowed to continue their anti-government movement. Red passions would not so easily be extinguished."
- Long-Term Economic Damage The Pseudonymous Bangkok Pundit warns, "The ongoing political instability in Thailand since 2006 has affected Thailand's economy. You had the PAD protests in 2006, the coup, the PAD protests in 2008 and in particular the airport takeover, the Songkran violence in April 2009 by UDD, and the ongoing protests and violence this year. Each event is a further escalation and just adds to the instability. ... Politically, this will be a problem for [Red Shirts]. Many previous supporters and particularly sympathizers who are affected by economic layoffs will not be happy, but this may depend on how the situation ends."