Thai clashes spread as army moves against protesters

Thai troops opened fire in a tense standoff with protesters in the capital, where the army vowed to clear protest area.

Thai clashes spread as army moves against protesters

Thai troops opened fire Friday in a tense standoff with protesters in the capital, where the army vowed to clear an area after clashes left one dead and a renegade general fighting for his life.

A succession of gunshots that sent residents fleeing in panic were heard close to the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, popular with tourists. Protesters set fire to an empty police bus and vandalised army vehicles and water cannon.

A Bangkok-based foreign journalist working for France 24 television station was wounded, the station said. A Thai photographer was also shot, a Reuters witness said.


Analysts said a possible split between a police force that has loyalties to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra and the military will make it more difficult to contain the violence.

Those fears were underlined after a Thai policeman fired bullets at soldiers during the clashes, a Reuters witness said.

Troops fired repeatedly into an intersection leading to an encampment in a ritzy hotel and shopping district they have occupied for five weeks, a Reuters witness said, adding he saw several people injured including two journalists.

It was unclear if troops were using live rounds, rubber bullets or both, he said.

At least one person was killed 11 people wounded in the violence since Thursday night, but that toll was expected to rise. Many hospitals declined to provide numbers of casualties.

Protesters had formed their own checkpoint overnight at the famous Suan Lum night market to stop soldiers from sealing off roads around their main fortified encampment in Bangkok's commercial heart. That became one of the main battlegrounds.

They set fire to a bus, motorbike and tyres as they retreated, and soldiers took control of an intersection leading to a road lined with hotels, the U.S. ambassador's home and several embassies, which were closed and evacuated.


Troops fired rubber bullets into a nearby park after gunshots were heard, Thai television said.

"No surrender"

The army had warned Thursday it would deploy snipers around the Reds' protest site and use armoured vehicles to prevent more demonstrators joining thousands who have essentially turned a large area of central Bangkok into occupied territory for two months, crippling an upscale retail district.

The army's decision followed the shooting late Thursday of renegade Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol, a high-profile Reds supporter, who had been accused of trying to stymie government moves to reconcile with the protesters.

He was unconscious in the intensive care unit of Vahira hospital with a "quite low" chance of survival from a head wound, said Chaiwan Charoenchokethavee, the hospital director.

Another demonstrator died after being shot in the head in clashes with security forces Thursday night. Eleven others were wounded, the Medical Service said.


Core Red leaders had publicly distanced themselves from Khattiya, known by his followers as Seh Daeng, but after his shooting one top protester vowed there would be no surrender.

"If you think the shooting of Seh Daeng will scare leaders and make them not dare to take the stage, you are wrong," one of the protest leaders, Jatuporn Prompan, said at the rally site. "We will not leave here as losers."

The army denied involvement in the shooting as protesters dug in.

Black-clad guards at entrances to the sprawling protest site in central Bangkok were armed with slingshots and arrows. They sealed access at one main entrance and reinforced another position with sandbags.

Some Humvees were on the street but no armoured vehicles were seen as troops set up checkpoints.

The fresh violence came after Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva shelved a plan to hold early elections in November and hopes faded for a resolution to the crippling political crisis.

The Reds say the government is undemocratic because it came to power in a 2008 parliamentary vote after a court ruling ousted elected allies of their hero, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was unseated in a 2006 coup.

Bracing for further possible unrest, the government on Thursday extended a state of emergency to 15 more provinces. Almost one-third of the country including Bangkok is now under emergency rule.


Last Mod: 14 Mayıs 2010, 12:11
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