Bangkok, May 17, 2010

Damage from a grenade blast, Dusit Thani Hotel, Bangkok As  mentioned previously, yesterday was generally quiet in the Silom area, at least until about 1am. Shortly after falling asleep I was awakened by the sound of several very large explosions and the pop of sniper rifle fire (as opposed the rattle of machine gun or the blasts of shotgun fire the previous nights) very close to my house. Wandering out this morning to survey the damage, it became clear exactly how close the sounds were: the Dusit Thani Hotel, which I can see clearly from my balcony, had been hit by a grenade (see pic above). Guests were apparently herded into the basement in the middle of the night, and as of today, the hotel has closed, its employees helping people evacuate from this area's now empty streets:

Employees of the Dusit Thani helping to evacuate guests on the empty streets of Bangkok

The government has set a deadline of 3pm today for everybody to leave the protester's main camp, which begins at Lumphini Park:

Red shirt camp, Lumphini Park, Bangkok

and stretches all the way to the shopping district at Rajprasong. It's 2.30pm as I write this, and the recent death of influential red shirt supporter Seh Daeng, the sound of explosions, mysterious small planes passing overhead and ominously, dark clouds and thunder, contribute to a very dark, tense atmosphere.

Incidentally, if I've gained anything from this experience, it's the knowledge that the seemingly useless internet application Twitter actually has a practical application. In the words of Bloomberg reporter Dan Ten Kate, 'It's like having sources all over town,' and many journalists and observers use it via mobile phone to keep up to date on what's becoming an ever-expanding conflict. I follow it compulsively from home, and if you also desire minute to minute updates on the situation here I can recommend feeds from Newley Purnell, Patrick Winn, Alastair Leithead, Andrew Marshall, bangkokpundit and Agnes Dherbys.