The Department of Special Investigation will conduct a probe into how a number of powerful arms had fallen into the possession of a United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) supporter.
DSI Director General Tharit Pengdit said at a press conference televised last night that the weapons seized included 62 M79 grenades and an M203 launcher. He said the accumulation of such powerful weapons with intent to use them in yesterday’s confrontation between the UDD protestors and security forces in Don Mueang area could be described as an act of terrorism. He said the DSI would work with the Office of the Attorney General and the Royal Thai Police to bring the culprits to punishment.
The crackdown was launched three days after Abhisit declared a state of emergency, which provided the government with broad powers of arrest, censorship, and suspension of civil liberties. Among the first measures taken was the blocking or closure of independent media, including thirty-six websites; the popular bilingual news-site Prachatai was one of those affected.
This prepared the ground for the more stringent actions on Bangkok’s bloody Saturday night: the use of water-cannons, tear-gas, and ultimately live ammunition to force the red-shirts off the streets. At the time of writing, twenty-one people are reported to have been killed (sixteen protestors, four soldiers, and a Japanese journalist), and over 800 injured. Abhisit Vejjajiva insists that soldiers were permitted to use live bullets only to shoot into the air or in self-defence, though the nature of the deaths and wounds inflicted on many protestors casts some doubt on this statement.
Thus the uneasy peace that had prevailed amid the popular tumult on Bangkok’s streets has been broken. Thailand now peers into the abyss. But whatever the outcome of the clash between people and state, a profound and little-remarked political transformation continues to unfold.