The situation in Bangkok went from bad to worse in the early morning hours of May 19. After weeks of negotiations with the red protesters that seemed to go nowhere, the military smashed through their bamboo barricade and proceeded to clear the area around Lumpini Park of protesters.
The leaders of the red protest movement had offered to turn themselves in to the police in an attempt to halt any further violence but this concession only seemed to enrage their followers. Immediately after the announcement that the red leadership would surrender, the protesters started attacking the luxury shopping malls around their encampment. They smashed windows, looted the stores and then set fire to the buildings. By the afternoon, clouds of black smoke could be seen rising from various parts of downtown Bangkok.
As the Military advanced on the main red stronghold near the Rajprasong area, the protesters spread out through the city in an attempt to establish another base of operations. Explosions and gunfire could be heard throughout the city as wherever the red protesters went violence seemed to follow. Banks, shopping malls and movie theatres were all targets for attack by a mob that felt betrayed by their leaders.
Fire personnel, ambulance crews and even foreign journalists were all targets for the red protesters who seemed bent on destroying the city. By the afternoon the government had declared a city-wide curfew in an attempt to clear the streets of civilians so they could begin to contain the protesters.
While many in the city are glad to see an end to the red shirt occupation of the downtown core, others are worried that with a lack of leadership the red movement could descend into guerilla warfare with the Thai government.
It seems that finally clearing the protesters out of the city core has solved one problem for the government, it has also created many more. For the weary citizens of Bangkok it might be a long time before life returns to normal.