Red shirts gear for all-out battle
Anger, anxiety and fearless defiance filled the air as tens of thousands of red-shirted protesters at the Rajprasong intersection geared up for an all-out battle with the government's security forces.
They learned in the early afternoon that their fellow protesters had clashed with soldiers at the other main protest site along Rajdamnoen Avenue and Phan Fa Bridge. By early evening, at least 83 had been injured.
Red-shirt leaders warned that a full-fledged "people's revolution" would break out if brute force was used on protesters.
At 7.45pm, the red shirts cheered long and loud as they heard their leader Veera Musikapong declare onstage that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva must dissolve the House and leave the Kingdom immediately.
Reinforcements led by Arisman Pongruangrong left Rajprasong for Phan Fa to help their comrades shortly before 8pm in a huge caravan. They also called on all red shirts to gather at all provincial halls nationwide.
"Get out! Get out! Get out!" shouted thousands as stories of what protesters considered as a brutal crackdown were being told on-stage including that of government helicopters dropping teargas canisters from the air and allegedly blinding a protester in one eye.
Red shirts at Rajprasong prepared goggles, teargas masks, helmets, towels and water in anticipation of the final face-off. "If they kill us, we will kill them too," one angry protester said.
At 3.40pm, Pol Lt-Colonel Waipot Aphornrat, one of the 22 red-shirt leaders wanted by the government, warned on-stage that Abhisit would end up spending his life in exile if he starts killing protesters. "We shall fight until we emerge victorious!"
If people are "frightened", they might seek refuge by breaking into the posh shopping malls around the junction. "Louis Vuitton, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Versace, we shall find out where they are."
Noi, a well-educated red shirt armed with Bt300 goggles, said that setting fires in the area was a possibility if shootings and killings occurred at Rajprasong, the capital's major shopping and tourist destination.
Red-shirt leaders warned people about misinformation since red-shirt media were mostly shut down by the government on Wednesday. They urged people to ignore state-controlled media, which they accused of spreading lies and propaganda.
As night fell, red shirts kept flowing to Rajprasong until the crowd grew into the tens of thousands, in a clear sign that they won't leave the venue they had occupied for a week without a fight. People nearer the centre appeared more relaxed than those guarding the fringes of the protest site.
Chaturon Chaisaeng, a deputy prime minister in the Thaksin Shinawatra administration and a key supporter of the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship, told foreign and Thai journalists in the early afternoon that the struggle will not be over anytime soon.
"This will never end. A lot more people will come back and they will continue to protest," he said.
The government's declaring of a state of emergency even though no riots had broken out was "provocative", he said.
"This law is designed to deal with terrorists and riots. They will be allowed to use force without legal accountability. This also violates the Constitution, as the charter protects the right to media and right to information."
It was 1.21pm at the Holiday Inn Hotel's coffeeshop and even as Chaturon spoke, red shirts were rushing towards the Phloenchit intersection as some 400 anti-riot police were advancing.
They succeeded after half an hour in pushing the police back a block. At nearby Chidlom intersection, red shirts began to climb four steel poles to aim at CCTV cameras in anticipation of a violent confrontation.
In the evening, at Henri Dunant intersection, a red-shirt man on the back of a pickup truck shouted, "Victory will belong to the people when the government starts shooting us!"