Tuesday, April 14, 2009

THAILAND political crisis: Angry residents repel invading protesters

By: Post Reporters

Angry residents took violence into their own hands on Monday to help soldiers and police disperse United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) protesters in their neighbourhoods.

In Din Daeng, apartment residents helped soldiers remove a gas tanker used by red shirt protesters to thwart government forces.

About 50 residents of the flats asked the demonstrators and truck driver to move the tanker away from their homes because of the presence of children and the elderly.

The protesters refused and the ranting of the drunken tanker driver only angered the residents.

One resident, who gave his name only as Tanawat, said he did not want to interfere in the rally but did not think the protesters should hold people hostage.

The red shirts opened the valves of the gas containers and prepared to set the tanker alight, Mr Tanawat said. They also parked a bus near the tanker, apparently to use it to feed the planned fire.

Some protesters threw petrol bombs into the apartment compound, he said, but the residents managed to put out the fire.

"Fire cannot force us out. This is our home," Mr Tanawat said.

Other residents attacked the red shirts for only thinking of themselves and not caring about the danger they were causing others.

The ageing Din Daeng flat compound is a sizeable community made up of many buildings each housing 80 rooms.

Soldiers stationed in the area since the morning removed the tanker in the late afternoon.

Villagers near Wat Somanas Rajavaravihara near Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue yesterday also expressed anger at the red shirt protesters after they fired on and threw petrol bombs at the army headquarters.

They also torched tyres and five buses at the intersection.

Residents armed themselves with whatever was at hand to use against the protesters. But soldiers intervened and told them "to let officers keep order and peace", one resident said.

The troops then fired on the protesters and a gunfight took place lasting about an hour. The protesters eventually fled after trying to set fire to buses and the nearby Forest Industry Organisation office.

Also, about 200 Muslims gathered near Phetchaburi road to attack red shirts who had destroyed their shops and cars on Phetchaburi Soi 5 and 7 while returning to Government House.

At least 1,000 rioters, who were pushed from Ratchaprarop road by the military, broke shop windows and destroyed four cars and 10 motorcycles as well as fired guns at a mosque, Daral Amarn.

The angry residents brandished wooden clubs, knives and iron bars in preparation to fight the red shirts.

Cars holding red shirts were attacked with sticks before the residents returned to their homes as police forced the red shirts to withdraw.

Sompong Potisiri, a coffee vendor, said the red shirts smashed her pushcart.

"I was shocked and don't know who to ask for compensation," she said. "I never thought there would be something like this."

A Muslim leader said the action was unacceptable. The mosque was sacred to the Muslim community.

"They've done too much to us," he said. "We feel very angry."

The military led by Col Apirak Kongsompong, deputy chief of staff of the 1st Division of the King's Guard, turned up later at Uruphong intersection to tell residents the red shirts' action was not a fight for democracy but rioting pure and simple. He called on the residents to resist the rioters.

Some local people angered by the red shirts' actions clapped their hands in support of the officers.

In a related development, 500 residents living near the Yommarat intersection and Nang Loeng market also forced out the protesters.

The residents joined the police to disperse the rioters, shouting: "This is my home. You all should get out."

Source: Bangkok post

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