Thai Security Forces Attempt to Bring an End to Bangkok Protests: Timeline

Thai security forces have battled to oust Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s opponents from central Bangkok for four days, culminating two months of violence that have claimed more than 50 lives.

The demonstrators want Abhisit to call an immediate election. The prime minister withdrew an offer to hold polls on Nov. 14 when protesters failed to disperse by a May 12 deadline.

Following is a timeline of events since Feb. 26, when a court decision to seize the wealth of exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra sparked the latest unrest.

Feb. 26: Thailand’s Supreme Court seizes 46.4 billion baht ($1.5 billion) from Thaksin’s family. The court ruled that Thaksin abused his power to benefit three companies now majority-owned by Singapore’s Temasek Holdings Pte.

March 12: Several thousand members of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, who wear red shirts and mostly support Thaksin, demonstrate in Bangkok. They call for Abhisit’s government to step down, saying it is undemocratic and elitist.

The government invokes the Internal Security Act for the sixth time since Abhisit took office on Dec. 15, 2008, allowing the military to close roads and make arrests.

Abhisit and other key ministers move to the 11th Infantry Regiment, the location of the government’s command center for combating the demonstration.

March 14: About 100,000 protesters join demonstrations in Bangkok. The Red Shirts take over several streets near government buildings and tourist sites including the Grand Palace.

March 16-17: Protesters dump bottles of their own blood outside Abhisit’s office, party headquarters and residence in a symbolic act of defiance.

March 28: Abhisit begins televised talks with his opponents. He refuses to meet a 15-day deadline for an election, offering to call polls by year’s end if the constitution is amended.

April 3: Tens of thousands of protesters begin an occupation of Bangkok’s commercial and tourist heartland, forcing the closure of some of the city’s biggest shopping malls.

April 7: Abhisit declares a state of emergency in Bangkok after Red Shirt protesters storm parliament. Stocks fall the most in six months.

April 10: Soldiers attempt to clear protesters from their base near Government House. The crackdown kills 25 people, the worst political violence since 1992, when more than 40 were killed in four days of fighting. Abhisit calls for a political solution to break the impasse.

April 12: Thailand’s Election Commission recommends that Abhisit’s Democrat Party be disbanded after investigating claims that it received illegal campaign contributions.

April 19: Security forces cordon off Bangkok’s financial district with razor wire as they prepare for a rally by Red Shirt protesters. The march is scrapped the next day after the protest group fails to attract large crowds.

April 20: Protesters retrench and build barricades of bamboo spears and rubber tires around six entry points to a business district spanning an area as large as New York’s Central Park.

April 22: Grenade attacks in Bangkok’s financial district that hit an elevated train line leave a Thai woman dead and injure about 80 people.

April 24: Abhisit rejects the Red Shirts’ offer to end their demonstration if he dissolves parliament in 30 days.

April 25: Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej makes his first public appearance since the violence began, meeting a group of new judges. He doesn’t directly mention the protests.

April 28: One soldier is killed and 17 protesters wounded when authorities open fire to prevent a convoy of about 5,000 Red Shirt demonstrators from traveling to a fresh-food market north of the capital.

May 3: Abhisit offers elections on Nov. 14 as part of a reconciliation roadmap. Red Shirt leaders say they’ll continue their siege in Bangkok until Abhisit announces a date for dissolving parliament.

May 6: Abhisit vows to dissolve parliament between Sept. 15 and Sept. 30, stopping short of meeting demands by protesters for a specific date. A protest group that shut down Bangkok’s airports in 2008 and backed Abhisit’s rise to power at the time calls for him to resign for offering too many concessions to the Red Shirts.

May 8: Two policemen are killed in grenade attacks and a drive-by shooting near the protest site in Bangkok.

May 10: Red Shirts agree to the Nov. 14 election date and say they’ll disperse if Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban enters the legal process after overseeing the April 10 crackdown on demonstrators.

May 11: The protesters set new terms for their withdrawal from Bangkok, demanding that police charge Suthep with a crime. Suthep earlier acknowledged a police complaint at the government’s Department of Special Investigation, which is handling the case, a gesture the demonstrators reject because it didn’t carry any formal charges.

May 12: Abhisit says protesters have until midnight to accept the roadmap and disperse.

May 13: Abhisit rescinds his offer to hold an election on Nov. 14 after protesters fail to disperse and the army makes preparations to forcibly remove them. Major-General Khattiya Sawisdipol, a renegade Thai general backing the protesters, is shot in the head as security forces moved to seal off the protest zone.

May 14: Street battles between troops and Red Shirt protesters leave at least 16 dead and 100 wounded. Former leader Thaksin calls on Abhisit to order soldiers back to their barracks and restart talks with protesters.

May 15: Thailand’s government calls the demonstration an act of terrorism and rules out talks with protest leaders. Several “live fire zones” are declared in which soldiers are authorized to shoot anyone they suspect of creating violence.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Jordan in Bangkok at tjordan3@bloomberg.net

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