May 30, 2010

With the men in black

For several weeks, former Pasadena Star-News reporter Todd Ruiz has been filing dispatches from the front lines of the sometimes violent anti-government protests in Thailand at his Reporter in Exile blog. His connections got him an exclusive look at the "men in black," a "secretive and heavily armed" band of fighters who used violence to bolster the officially "nonviolent" red shirt movement.

From the story:
'Not Terrorists Not Violent; Only Peaceful and Democracy,'' read a banner hanging outside the barrier of jumbled tires. Inside, it was an open secret who the gunmen were; no less secret were the perimeter bombs, connected by dirty gray cables, designed to inflict heavy casualties on any advancing government army soldiers.

Some of the men held their firearms tightly concealed under jackets. Just after sunset, oblong packages wrapped in black plastic were carried into tents in Lumpini Park from elsewhere in the camp. Running at a crouch, we were moved to a different tent nearer the memorial statue of Thai King Rama VI. The Ronin moved between tents often in this way to avoid detection from government snipers.

Twenty-seven men crouched in darkness inside the tent. Newspapers covered any illuminated displays from radios or other electronics, and we were asked to turn off our cell phones. One gunman suggested army snipers would kill them all at first light if they had the chance.

''Don't worry; safe. Thai-style,'' their combat medic said to us in English, gesturing to layers of tarps obscuring the ground from potential snipers where we were camped with them.
The story was published in Asia Times.

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