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Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 16:15 UK

Bangkok protests: Eyewitness accounts in Thailand

Central World on fire Wednesday 0750 (GMT 1240), shot from an apartment in Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok. Photo: Pascal P.
View of burning Bangkok. Photo: Pascal P

Thailand has extended a curfew for a further three nights in Bangkok and 23 provinces.

27 buildings were set ablaze on Wednesday after protest leaders had surrendered.

People in Thailand have been telling the BBC how they have been affected by the fighting.

CHRISTIAN, BANGKOK, THURSDAY 20 MAY
Rubbish bags left behind at the protersters' camp
Rubbish bags left behind at the protesters' camp. Picture: Christian

This afternoon the police were opposite the Paragon.

They were working for the government to organize transport our of town for the anti-government protestors.

So-called red-shirts who can leave by themselves are free to go as well.

The atmosphere is friendly and calm. People are tired and happy to leave. The ones with their own transport are allowed to take their possesions. There must be a thousand or more. Local Bankokians are upset they can leave just like this after destroying our city

We feel very relieved it's over. The tension is out of the air. At the same time we feel sad for Thailand and our city Bangkok. We are very concerned about the well-being of the children and the trauma they had to go through last night. We are also concerned for the young soldiers who risk their lives for all of us here living in Bangkok.

EK, BANGKOK, THURSDAY 20 MAY
The sun hangs above the Central World Plaza
The sun hangs above the Central World Plaza. Picture: Ek

We have been living under huge stress for the last five days.

There has beenconstant gunshots from every direction and intermittent explosions day and night.

Wednesday night after the curfew, the city became totally silent. There was no traffic on the street. The best thing was there were no more gunshots or explosions.

Today the soldiers are clearing up the mess. They are tearing down the illegal check points and tents blocking the access to Central World area. There is garbage are all over the place and the smell is very bad. The streets are covered with dirt from the burnt tyres.

Soldiers clear away the bamboo barricades
Soldiers clear away the bamboo barricades. Picture: Ek

The steel barriers remain like rusty wires. There is broken glass all over the street from the petrol bombs. Windows are shattered from the looters trying to break into shops along the street. It's a really sad sight.

I saw some police cars taking out the remaining so-called red-shirt protestors who had been hiding inside buildings around Hyatt and Siam Square. Soldiers are still searching for hidden snipers inside high-rise buildings in the area.

Today local residents on Wireless road came out and walked freely on the street again.

Peace and quiet returns to this neighborhood.

PASCAL P, SUKHUMVIT ROAD, BANGKOK, THURSDAY 30 MAY

I'm one of the lucky ones, I will work again soon.

Before Wednesday night, I have never feared for my safety in Thailand. But seeing Central World shopping mall burning, and knowing that many other big buildings in town were on fire, was frightening.

I've been through the protesters' camp when it was safe.

Protesters in Bangkok. Photo: Pascal P
Protesters in Bangkok. Photo: Pascal P

A big part of protesters are old people, just sitting down all day long in front of a fan and cheering at their leaders as soon as they end a sentence. Most of them are paid to protest.

The other part is a much more aggressive kind of protester - they have no fear of the Thai army or police.

I've seen them throwing Molotov cocktails at soldiers; they were armed with guns and grenades.

I don't understand how most media can define them as unarmed, peaceful protesters. This is far from true.

I haven't been able to work since last Friday as our factory is close to a "red zone". Our workers won't come to work as it's dangerous.

Most of my favourite shopping centres are closed, but I can't complain about anything. I'm one of the lucky ones, I will work again soon.

Thousands of Thai people lost their jobs because of the protests. Many people were working in the now-closed shopping area, and the tourist industry is paying a heavy price too.

JOHN WIGGLESWORTH, BANGKOK, WEDNESDAY 19 MAY
Protesters, Bangkok
Olivier Nijffels sent a photo of protesters making molotov cocktails

I live a couple of miles out from the protest site and I had felt totally safe, until Wednesday.

I returned to my home in Phra Khanong at about 4.30pm this afternoon as I heard things were kicking off in Thong Lo, which was previously some distance from any of the violence.

I am on the corner of Rama IV (which leads into the centre of the problem area in Silom) and Soi Sukhumvit. As I returned, there were hundreds of motorcycles obviously being ridden by the red army members (most had their faces covered).

Ten minutes later, there was persistent gunfire very close to me - Sukhumvit Soi 48/3. They had tried to loot the Bangkok Bank, I understand. A shop at the end of Rama IV has been smashed up and looted, as has every telephone booth along Rama IV.

There is glass everywhere, and the alarm is still sounding at Bangkok Bank. It is completely unguarded, no windows, burnt debris on the steps, and just some tape over the front to warn off potential looters.

The army may have cleared the centre, but there has clearly been no containment. It has been pretty scary out there this afternoon, although things seem calmer now. The curfew came into force about five minutes ago, mind you.

This looting must be a real shot in the foot for them. I don't see how they expect to garner sympathy from the populace when they are looting stores and setting fire to buildings.

JIM, UDON THANI, WEDNESDAY 19 MAY
Udon Thani, Thailand

I'm in Udon Thani, Thailand for a week on holiday with friends.

It's kind of worrying. The centre is like a ghost town - shops are closed and there are security forces everywhere.

I've seen lots of roadblocks around town - they seem to be trying to stop people leaving the city to reinforce the red-shirts in Bangkok.

Today I heard a couple of loud bangs and saw a big plume of smoke. It was actually a government building that's been set alight.

A large group of people came out to see the building burn.

The government closed mobile communications and electricity for a while.

GRAEME, KHON KAEN, WEDNESDAY 19 MAY

Khon Kaen is a major city in the red-shirt heartland.

This afternoon around 5pm I went out to eat, only too see a red-shirt convoy down the road from my apartment.

They attempted to smash their way into a Bangkok Bank branch. They then moved on and went to a local MP's home and tried to break in.

I waited for them to pass and headed down to have dinner near the Kaen Nakhon Lake.

As I reached the road around the lake two pick-up trucks came racing by with what looked to me like wounded red-shirts in the back.

So the red-shirts have now started trouble in this region of Thailand.

KARN BULSUK, BANGKOK, WEDNESDAY 19 MAY
Red shirt protester, Bangkok
Ronnie Reid took this picture of a protester who had started a fire

I moved my family out of our apartment in the early hours of Sunday morning because I was worried about the protesters spreading out.

I am now about 6km from the action. I have been told to work from home as it is still too dangerous to go out to our office which lies closer to the red zone.

The streets are quiet - most people seem to be choosing to stay at home. Public transport such as the sky train is not functioning.

I'm relieved that there is some kind of resolution of the situation but the government must address the underlying problems or we will just be back here again soon. We must look at the tension between rich and poor, and complaints about the legitimacy of the government.

I am worried about the drift towards violent protest by mobs in Thailand. The rule of law must be strictly enforced. Any mass protest through violent and illegal means must not be allowed.

JARROD STENHOUSE, BANGKOK, WEDNESDAY 19 MAY

Witness Jarrod Stenhouse: "No-one really knows what's going on here"

I'm standing at a barricade at the edge of the rally site, and can see about 60 soldiers and 15 police officers sitting around.

They are stopping cars and searching them as they enter the camp.

I live on Soi 13, the main road leading through Bangkok, where the biggest protests are.

But my office is inside the rally site - it has been closed since Thursday.

I need to leave the country on Friday so I am trying to get into the protest site to retrieve my passport, although there have been reports of heavy troop movement into the area.

Soldiers at Ploenchit Station, Wednesday morning. Photo: Jarrod Stenhouse.
Soldiers at Ploenchit Station. Photo: Jarrod Stenhouse.

Helicopters are flying over my apartment on their way to disperse tear gas.

The sky is full of black smoke and all you can smell is burning tyre. I don't really feel frightened by it, more frustrated.

This has been going on for about two months, and at first it was peaceful and we could get on with things as usual, but now it's having a big impact on everyday life.

Everything is closed, I can't go to work - we can't go about our lives.

MORE OF YOUR STORIES FROM BANGKOK

It is harrowing what is happening in Bangkok, the city I have called home for almost 40 years. This feels like the Thai version of 9/11. The violence and unrest is taking place downtown - where we all go shopping, eat at restaurants, drop our kids to school, etc. Black smoke is engulfing the city and it is right in the residential areas. It is unbelievable how things have escalated to this extent. It seems the red shirts and those demonstrators have forgotten the purpose they have set out for in their demonstration. This has been the most violent protest I have see in Bangkok - with protestors having armed weapons. They have totally been brainwashed and have become hooligans. The red shirt leaders and most of all, Thaksin, will never be forgiven for what they have instigated.

Kittima, Bangkok

I am in Udon Thani and I was 50 metres behind the soldiers when they started shooting in the air to disperse the red shirts who looked like they were about to storm several goverment buildings. There were many empty shell casings to be seen on the ground so they must have been shooting before I came to scene. After that I circled my way towards the direction from where the red shirts where coming but there were no red shirts to be seen. There was a smell of gun powder in the air. Many onlookers were present during the shooting - mainly civilians who live in this neighbourhood. Many were filming and taking photos. The central plaza - the big mall of Udon - was closed and the busy night market was closed aswell. Now there is a curfew but it's nearly 2100 and there are still people having evening dinner on the street. There are soldiers standing guard at goverment buildings and the fire department is present at the old county hall which was set on fire today. It is not destroyed or collapsed and there is little damage from the outside.

Ploi, Udon Thani

It is a terribly scary atmosphere in Bangkok right now. There is smoke and noise everywhere. People from the Siemens office in Petchburi were evacuated at 5pm local time and immediately went to the supermarket to stock up. There is a two day bank holiday here now to give the authorities time to ensure all is well. But the question must be asked for how long? The red shirts might have lost the day but the war is still ongoing for their right to vote.

Mike, Bangkok

I live in a top floor flat 200 metres away from the blockade. I can hear explosions in the background. There is smoke everywhere; I can't see the horizon. The smell of burning is phenomenal. But remember - the violence is only in Bangkok. I've just come back from the provinces and it is peaceful there.

Stephen, Bangkok



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