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The sun is now setting over Bangkok, where anti-establishment protesters are warring with soldiers for control over the capital's key intersections.
Less then two hours ago, I walked through Victory Monument, perhaps Bangkok's busiest traffic circle. Just hours earlier, it was the scene of a clash between the military and street mobs. I arrived expecting to be blocked by soldiers — a friend and fellow reporter was turned away earlier — but I was able to stroll right down the traffic circle's outer ring.
Totally eerie. Imagine Broadway at 5:30 p.m., with only the occasional taxi crusing by. I chatted with an older Thai gentleman at a bus stop. "So quiet!" he said in Thai. "The soldiers have scared off all the tourists."
Though soldiers had secured the area by then, I saw acrid, black clouds pluming up from the area around lunchtime. All over Bangkok today, the army launched counterattacks on intersections blockaded by protesters. Footage played repeatedly on Thai television shows soldiers rushing the mob firing M-16s.
Reliable information is hard to come by in the fog of conflict. An army spokesman appeared on TV earlier promising soldiers had only "ying keun faa" or "fired up at the sky." The protesters — who now appear to be limiting access to reporters — say soldiers have killed some of their fighters.
Adding a bizarre undercurrent to all this conflict is Songkran, Thailand's rollicking New Year's celebration. During Songkran, it becomes socially acceptable to douse total strangers with water. And across Bangkok, locals are taking aim at innocent bystanders — with water guns. (That's why I don't have any photos to share. I didn't want to ruin my new Canon G10. The above photo was snaked from Ron at the excellent 2bangkok.com.)
So as parts of Bangkok burn, and soldiers and protesters square off, many neighborhoods are alive with music, gleeful squeals and drunken dancing in the street. As I type this, my walls are shuddering with Thai country ballads.
The holiday ends Thursday. When Bangkok sobers up, will the protesters still hold down parts of the city?