Is the Left Pushing for Violence in America?

By Matt Welch

Via commenter Smoovev comes the latest example of well-respected former war correspondent Chris Hedges advocating political violence in America:

Here’s to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.

Greek rioters have killed three so far.

Hedeges’ recent apocalyptic tear (which has resonance for at least some libertarians, not to mention Pagans) includes urging on sabotage two months ago, and calling corporations “little Eichmanns” last week. And this is no fringe character here–Hedges continues to receive respectful hearings in the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Vancouver Sun, et al, and just last week he was named a finalist for the L.A. Press Club’s Online Journalist of the Year. You will search in vain for any mention of Hedges by the scores of journalistic commenters who have been warning for more than a year now (inaccurately, in my opinion) about impending political violence, inciteful right-wing rhetoric, and borderline sedition.

Bangkok Burns After Protest Leaders Surrender

May 19: Smoke rises from burning fires in downtown Bangkok, Thailand, following the surrender of anti-government leaders to the police.

Associated Press

BANGKOK — Downtown Bangkok turned into a flaming battleground Wednesday as an army assault toppled an anti-government group’s leadership, enraging followers who fired grenades and set numerous fires that cloaked the skyline in black smoke.

Using live ammunition, troops dispersed thousands of Red Shirt protesters who had been camped in the capital’s premier shopping and residential district for weeks. Four protesters and an Italian news photographer were killed in the ensuing gunbattles and about 60 wounded.

After Red Shirt leaders gave themselves up to police, rioters set fires at the Stock Exchange, several banks, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Electricity Authority, the Central World, one of Asia’s biggest shopping malls, and a cinema that burned to ground. There were reports of looting.

Thick smoke drifted across the sky of this city of 10 million people. Firefighters retreated after protesters shot guns at them.

The chaos in Bangkok in the wake of the two-month protest will deepen the severe impact dealt to the economy and tourism industry of Thailand, a key U.S. ally and long considered one of the more stable countries in Southeast Asia. The Red Shirts had demanded the ouster of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government, the dissolution of Parliament and new elections.

The government declared an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in Bangkok, and said army operations would continue through the night.

“Tonight is going to be another worrisome night,” government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.

It also imposed a partial media blackout on local TV stations, saying all of them will have to air government-prepared bulletins.

“They might be able to show their regular news programs. But we are concerned about their live broadcasts from the scenes,” Panitan said. “There will be more (government) programs … to be shown simultaneously by all stations,” he said.

Protesters turned their rage on the local media, which they have accused of pro-government coverage. They attacked the offices of state-run Channel 3, setting fire to cars outside and puncturing water pipes that flooded the building.

“At Channel 3 need urgent help from police, soldiers!!!” tweeted news anchor Patcharasri Benjamasa. “News cars were smashed and they are about to invade the building.”

Hours later its building was on fire. Its executives were evacuated by helicopter and police rescued other staff. The English-language Bangkok Post newspaper evacuated its staff after threats from the Red Shirts. A large office building down the street from the Post was set afire.

Unrest also spread to the rural northeast of the country, where Red Shirts, who claim Abhisit’s government is elitist and oblivious to their plight, retain strong support.

Local media reported protesters set fire to government offices in the city of Udon Thani and vandalized a city hall in Khon Kaen. Udon Thani’s governor asked the military to intervene. TV images also showed troops retreating after being attacked by mobs in Ubon Ratchathani.

Cabinet minister Satit Vongnongteay described the chaos as anticipated “aftershocks.”

“There are violent-prone protesters who remain angry,” Satit told a news conference.

At least 44 people have been killed, most of them civilians, in a week of violence in Bangkok as a military attempt to blockade the protesters — who had camped in the 1-square-mile (3-square-kilometer) Rajprasong district for six weeks — instead touched off street fighting, with soldiers firing on protesters who fought back mostly with homemade weapons.

The final crackdown began soon after dawn Wednesday, as hundreds of troops armed with M-16s converged on the Red Shirt base in Rajprasong, where high-end malls and hotels have been shuttered by the prolonged protest.

Armored vehicles crashed through barricades of piled tires and bamboo stakes, then soldiers gradually moved toward the protesters’ hub, opening fire and drawing return fire from militant Red Shirts, Associated Press journalists saw.

Bullets flew overhead and several grenades exploded near the soldiers, forcing them to pull back and take cover briefly before pushing forward. A Canadian freelance reporter was injured by grenade shrapnel. Two other journalists were wounded earlier, one Dutch man and an American documentary filmmaker. An Italian photographer was killed.

With no hope of resisting the military’s advance, seven top Red Shirt leaders turned themselves in on Wednesday afternoon, saying they cannot see their supporters — women and children among them — being killed anymore.

“Brothers and sisters, I’m sorry I cannot see you off the way I welcomed you all when you arrived here. But please be assured that our hearts will always be with you,” Nattawut Saikua, a key leader, said as he was being arrested.

“Please return home,” he said.

By mid-afternoon, the army announced it had gained control of the protest zone and the operations had ended — nine hours after troops launched the pre-dawn assault.

“Police officers and soldiers have now stopped their operation,” army spokesman Col. Sansern Kawekamnerd said.

Thai ‘Red Shirts’ Offer Peace Talks After General Dies

May 16: An anti-government protester 'Red Shirt' throws a tire toward a burned truck as the violence in central Bangkok continues.

Associated Press
BANGKOK

The dead from clashes that erupted last Thursday include the military strategist of the Red Shirts, who succumbed Monday to a gunshot wound from a sniper attack last week.

Thailand’s Red Shirts offered peace talks Monday to end raging street battles that have killed at least 37 people in Bangkok as a government deadline demanding the demonstrators vacate a protest zone passed without capitulation.

Helicopters buzzed over the demonstration site fortified with long wooden spikes and tires in the heart of the capital’s commercial district, dropping leaflets ordering anyone inside to leave immediately.

The dead from clashes that erupted last Thursday include the military strategist of the Red Shirts, who succumbed Monday to a gunshot wound from a sniper attack last week. Maj. Gen. Khattiya Sawasdiphol’s death raised fears of new violence in this Southeast Asian nation, which has been wracked by political turmoil and violence since mid-March.

A luxury hotel was the scene of a heated pre-dawn gunbattle Monday and later closed its doors. Loud blasts reverberated outside the main protest zone through the night as sustained bursts of automatic rifle fire echoed through the once-bustling business and shopping area.

The political conflict is Thailand’s deadliest and most prolonged in decades, and each passing day of violence deeply divides in this nation of 65 million — a key U.S. ally and Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. Thailand has long been considered a democratic oasis in Southeast Asia, and the unrest has shaken faith in its ability to restore and maintain stability.

The Red Shirts, many of whom hail from the impoverished north and northeast, say Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s coalition government came to power through manipulation of the courts and the backing of the powerful military, and that it symbolizes a national elite indifferent to their plight.

A Red Shirt leader, Jatuporn Prompan, said the only hope now to end the violence was intervention by Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Another protest leader, Nattawut Saikua, said the Red Shirts are ready to negotiate and to submit themselves to the courts.

Despite the conciliatory words, the Red Shirts also continued to insist they will not stop the protests until Abhisit orders a cease-fire. Red Shirt supporters were also seen gathering in other parts of the city, and in at least one place an activist used a loudspeaker to address a crowd of about 300.

The 82-year-old monarch, hospitalized since September, has remained publicly silent on the crisis unlike decades past when he stepped in to stop bloodshed.

According to government figures, 66 people have died and more than 1,600 have been wounded since the Red Shirts began their protests in March. The toll includes 37 killed, almost all of them civilians, and 266 wounded since Thursday in fighting that has turned parts of central Bangkok into an urban war zone.

“It’s time to return peace to the country. We are ready to move toward peace and the negotiations,” Nattawut said. “The more the situation goes on, the longer people’s lives will be in danger.”

“There is no use for gunshots to be heard in Bangkok right now, because the number of casualties would never bring victory to any side,” he said.

Nattawut also dropped a previous demand for the U.N. to mediate in the talks, saying the government can appoint a neutral body for the task.

However, the government stuck to its stand that the army will not pull back until the protesters stop attacking them. “Talks … must be based on an end to the attacks on the security officers,” government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.

Rapid gunfire and explosions echoed before dawn Monday outside the luxury Dusit Thani hotel, located next to the protest zone, where the military has attempted since Thursday to seal in thousands of demonstrators camping in the downtown streets. Guests were rushed to the basement for safety.

Reporters at the scene said the gunfire came both from government forces and protesters holed up inside the encampment who appear to have stockpiled a sizable arsenal of weapons.

Authorities say they are not shooting to kill but only want to choke off the Red Shirts, who have occupied a 1-square-mile (3-square-kilometer) protest zone in one of Bangkok’s ritziest areas for weeks.

Soldiers have encircled the core protest site and cut off utilities to the area. Protest leaders told women and children with them to move to a Buddhist temple compound within the zone.

The areas between the site and the military’s perimeter have become a no-man’s land where gunshots and blasts can regularly be heard. The government says Red Shirt activists were creating trouble as far as 1 mile (2 kilometers) from their main protest site.

A previous army attempt to disperse the protesters on April 10 — when they had congregated in a different area of Bangkok — left 25 people dead.

The latest fighting started after Khattiya, a renegade army officer accused of creating a paramilitary force for the Red Shirt protesters, was shot by a sniper as he talked to journalists Thursday. Vajira Hospital reported he died early Monday.

The Thai government warned Monday the estimated 5,000 protesters barricaded within their “occupation zone” to leave by 3 p.m., saying anyone who remains there will be violating the law and will face two years in prison.

“Immediately vacate the area that is considered dangerous,” the government said in a televised announcement. “Terrorists are trying to cause deaths in the area.”

The announcement said buses will be provided to escort protesters out of their encampment and take them home.

Early Monday, several hundred army troops and heavily armed police were spotted in the Sukhumvit area, an upscale residential neighborhood popular with Bangkok expatriates. Roads were blocked to prevent traffic from traveling toward the protest zone, and many residents — unnerved by the uncommon sight of troops in Sukhumvit — were making plans to evacuate.

“People are either battening down the hatches and not moving out of the area, or they’re getting out of town,” said Debbie Oakes of Wellington, New Zealand, a four-year resident of Bangkok. She said she and her family were packing up to leave Bangkok and heading to the beach resort of Hua Hin, a three-hour drive away. By midafternoon, many stores in Sukhumvit had shut down.

Days of prolonged fighting and disruption to normal city life have taken their toll on Bangkok residents. Most shops, hotels and businesses near the protest area are shut and long lines formed at supermarkets outside the protest zone as people rushed to stock up on food. The city’s two mass transit trains remained closed Monday.

Troops fire on rioting protesters, explosions thunder in central Bangkok; 5 die in new clashes

April 14: Thai soldiers stand off a crowd of anti-government protesters in Bangkok, Thailand, after initial government moves overnight to blockade them showed no results.

BANGKOK (AP) — Thai troops fired bullets at anti-government protesters and explosions thundered in the heart of Bangkok on Friday as an army push to clear the streets and end a two-month political standoff sparked clashes that have killed five and wounded 81.

As night fell, booming explosions and the sound of gunfire rattled around major intersections in the central business district. Local TV reported that several grenades hit a shopping center and elevated-rail station. Plumes of black smoke hung over the neighborhood as tires burned in eerily empty streets while onlookers ducked for cover.

Among those wounded were two Thai journalists and a Canadian reporter, who was in a serious condition.

With security deteriorating and hopes of a peaceful resolution to the standoff increasingly unlikely, what was once one of Southeast Asia’s most stable democracies and magnets of foreign investment has been thrust deep into political uncertainty. The crisis threatens its stability, economy and already-decimated tourism industry.

Violence escalated after a rogue army general regarded as a military adviser to the Red Shirt protesters was shot in the head Thursday evening, possibly by a sniper. A doctor said Maj. Gen. Khattiya Sawasdiphol was still in a coma Friday and he could “die at any moment.”

Thai troops fired bullets at anti-government protesters and explosions thundered in the heart of Bangkok as an army push to clear the streets and end a two-month political standoff sparked clashes that have killed three and wounded 69.

Clashes since then have killed five and wounded 81, officials said.

“We are being surrounded. We are being crushed. The soldiers are closing in on us. This is not a civil war yet, but it’s very, very cruel,” Weng Tojirakarn, a protest leader, told The Associated Press.

Fighting has now killed 34 people and injured hundreds since the Red Shirts, mostly rural poor, began camping in the capital on March 12, in a bid to force out Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. They claim his coalition government came to power illegitimately through manipulation of the courts and the backing of the powerful military, which in 2006 forced the populist premier favored by the Red Shirts, Thaksin Shinawatra, from office in a coup.

Last week, Abhisit offered November elections, raising hopes that a compromise could be reached with the Red Shirts, who have been demanding immediate elections. Those hopes were dashed after Red Shirt leaders made more demands.

Late Thursday, the army moved to seal off the Red Shirt encampment in an upscale commercial district of the capital. Some 10,000 protesters, women and children among them, have crammed into the area.

“Our policy is not to disperse the protesters,” government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said late Friday. He said their mission was to set up checkpoints and “tighten” the area around the protest, but “there have been attempts to agitate the officers.”

In later speech on national TV, Panitan said security forces hadn’t entered the demonstration area but were attacked and forced to protect themselves.

He said security efforts would be stepped up in the coming days and “many areas would be under control soon.” As he said that a large explosion rang out in central Bangkok.

Friday’s violence was initially centered on a small area home to several foreign embassies, including those of the U.S. and Japan which were forced to close, but by midafternoon had spread around the 1-square-mile (3-square-kilometer) protest zone barricaded with bamboo stakes and tires. The British, New Zealand and the Dutch embassies, which are in the vicinity, also were shut.

Soldiers crouched behind a raised road divider in one area and fired rubber bullets, live ammunition and tear gas shells. Army vehicles were seen speeding on deserted streets littered with stones and debris. Protesters retreated and hurled rocks and insults.

Among Friday’s casualties, a Thai cameraman from the VoiceTV news website was shot in his left thigh and a photographer for Matichon newspaper was shot in the leg, the news outlets said.

Canadian freelance journalist Nelson Rand, who was working for France 24 news channel, was hit by three bullets, the channel reported. One bullet perforated his leg, another hit his abdomen, another hit his wrist. He underwent surgery and was recovering.

Friday morning, protesters captured and vandalized two military water cannon trucks at a key intersection in the business district, just outside the Red Shirt encampment. They ripped the cannon from its moorings and used its plastic barrel to shoot firecrackers from behind a sandbag bunker they had commandeered from soldiers.

They later set fire to a police bus that sent thick plumes of smoke into the sky. Soldiers fired automatic rifles repeatedly.

Soldiers used a loudspeaker to send a message to the Red Shirts: “We are the people’s army. We are just doing our duty for the nation. Brothers and sisters, let’s talk together.”

But a group of aggressive young protesters approached them on motorcycles and on foot, shouting obscenities. Two soldiers fired shotguns into the air and they pulled back but kept up their abuse.

Major roads around the protest site were closed to traffic, and the city’s subway and elevated train shut early. Many shops in the capital also were shuttered.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Kornvika Klinpraneat, 28, a worker at a mini-mart near the protest area. “This is like a civil war. The battle is being fought in the middle of a city with innocent people being injured and killed.”

The renegade army general Khattiya, who is accused of creating a paramilitary force for the Red Shirts, was shot in the head while talking to reporters just inside the perimeter of the protesters’ encampment. Director of the hospital treating him, Dr. Chaiwan Charoenchokthawee, said Friday that Khattiya “could die at any moment.”

It was not known who shot Khattiya, better known by the nickname Seh Daeng. But the Red Shirts blamed a government sniper.

“This is illegal use of force ordered by Abhisit Vejjajiva,” said Arisman Pongruengrong, a Red Shirt leader. “Seh Daeng was shot by a government sniper. This is clearly a use of war weapons on the people.”

The army denied it tried to kill Khattiya.

“It has nothing to do with the military. It has never been our policy (to assassinate). We have been avoiding violence,” said Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, an army spokesman. Only a forensic investigation will determine who was behind the shooting, he said.

The two-day clashes marked the worst continuous episode of violence since April 10, when 25 people were killed and more than 800 injured in clashes between Red Shirts and troops in Bangkok’s historic area. Sporadic clashes have occurred since then.

The Red Shirts see Abhisit’s government as serving an elite insensitive to the plight of most Thais. The protesters include many supporters of former prime minister Thaksin whose allies won elections in 2007 after his ouster. Two subsequent pro-Thaksin governments were disbanded by court rulings before Abhisit was elected by Parliament.

Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire who fled overseas to avoid a corruption conviction, has publicly encouraged the protests and is widely believed to be helping bankroll them. He claims to be a victim of political persecution.

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Associated Press writers Vijay Joshi, Jocelyn Gecker, Denis D. Gray and Chris Blake contributed to this report. Additional research by Warangkana Tempati.