First, the reason behind the reason: The National United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship -- or "red shirts" -- has long been demonstrating for the replacement of the aristocratic polity with electoral democracy and the replacement of Thailand's 2007 military-drafted constitution. After Abhisit Vejjajiva became prime minister in late 2008, he declared a state of emergency against spring 2010 UDD protests that resulted in a bloody crackdown and media censorship. Protests rose up again this March, demanding elections. In April, Abhisit again ordered a military crackdown resulting in at least two dozen deaths and the shutdown of UDD-supporting media while declaring the demonstrations to be unconstitutional. At the beginning of this month, Abhisit offered an agreement for Nov. 14 elections, which was tentatively accepted by protesters, but things would continue to go downhill.
On Wednesday, Khattiya Sawasdiphol, a renegade Thai general who had been backing the anti-government protesters, was shot in the head while being interviewed by the New York Times. This touched off even more bloody clashes between Thai authorities and demonstrators, and today the government rejected calls for U.N.-backed talks to end the crisis. More from Reuters:
"The government doused hopes of a compromise to end fighting that has killed at least 31 people, all civilians, and wounded 230, transforming one of Asia's most dynamic cities into a battleground and raising the risk of a broader conflict.
'We cannot retreat now,' Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in a televised statement, encapsulating the government's all-or-nothing campaign to end two months of protests seeking to topple his fragile, ruling six-party coalition.
The mostly rural and urban poor protesters, supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, accuse the government of colluding with the royalist elite and meddling with the judiciary to bring down two Thaksin-allied governments.
Analysts and diplomats said the military appears to have underestimated the resolve of thousands of 'red shirt' protesters barricaded in 3 sq-km (1.2 sq-mile) district of luxury hotels and shopping malls for six weeks.
'Unless the government cracks down and does so decisively -- and that's a big if -- we are going to be seeing rioting and guerrilla warfare, possibly spreading out to other areas,' said an Asian diplomat who declined to be identified.
That was already starting to happen."
The State Department has more details about the areas involved in its travel warning.
For full coverage of the crisis, check out the Bangkok Post. The current headline as of this posting? "Bangkok is Burning"UPDATE: Khattiya, the military strategist for the red shirts who had been shot in the head, died of his wounds on Monday.
(Photo by Getty Images)