Thailand’s Red Shirt protests came to an end today as the group’s leadership surrendered in the face of a massive military assault on the thousands of protesters in Central Bangkok.
“I apologize to you all, but I don’t want any more losses,” Jatuporn Prompan, one of the leaders, told the crowd before he was led away by police. The Thai Army has temporarily halted its attacks, which killed several dozen protesters and bystanders, to allow the thousands still trapped in the area to flee.
Though other leaders also announced they were quitting the current protest in the face of what could have been a massacre, they urged the protesters not to give up on the fight for political change.
But many of the protesters appear not to have been particularly keen on having a multi-month protest end simply because the Abhisit government ordered in troops, and reports are that fires have been set across the city, including at the stock exchange, at a TV station, and at one of the largest shopping malls in the nation.
Thailand’s Army called the protesters “terrorists” and promised to continue operations against them, even as most of them seem to be heading home in defeat. The resentment will likely have far reaching ramifications in a nation increasingly polarized between urban and rural populations.
The Red Shirt protesters were a pro-democracy group that were calling for the ouster of the Abhisit government, which was never elected but was rather the result of a deal made in the wake of a previous protest which ousted the Somchai government in 2008, and sought fresh elections.