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Two dead as violent clashes rock Thai capital

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 14, 2009

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) — Two people died Monday during a clash between the protesters and city residents, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in a televised address.

A wall of heavily-armed Thai troops closes in on protesters in central Bangkok.

A wall of heavily-armed Thai troops closes in on protesters in central Bangkok.

A reporter told CNN that he saw six bodies on the ground near the train station, where a confrontation took place. He said he did not know whether they were alive.

The report came shortly after former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose supporters have engaged in escalating clashes with Thai police, reiterated Monday that he is willing to return to his country but would not say when.

“Well, you know I am ready to go when the time is right,” Thaksin told CNN. “But now, I like to see peaceful protests by the demonstrators. Actually, you know, they are all innocent people. They come with bare hands; they are asking for true democracy and justice. But they got back undemocratic ways with a lot of brutal suppression.”

Thaksin would not say when he might return. Earlier, he had asked his supporters to “come out for a revolution,” saying he would lead them in a march to the capital if necessary.

He fled Bangkok last year while facing trial on corruption charges.

Thaksin spoke to CNN as clashes between protesters and police intensified Monday, the beginning of the Thai New Year.

The army fired a volley of shots at the anti-government protesters, who are demanding that the current prime minister step down. It was not immediately known whether the troops fired rubber bullets or live gunshots. iReport: See images from the protests

Demonstrators commandeered at least two buses, rigged the steering wheels and sent them toward police officers, who fired at the vehicles in response. Other buses were seen burning. 

Earlier in the day, protesters hurled gasoline bombs, blocked intersections and set fires in many parts of Bangkok, the capital. Scores of riot police descended on the streets. At least 70 people — 23 soldiers and 47 protesters — were wounded in clashes, some from gunshot wounds, the prime minister said in a televised address.

“The first objective is to clear up the traffic blocks around the city,” said Panitan Wattanayagorn, a Thai government spokesman. “The second is to return the government offices and compound back to the officers. Lastly, reduce the threat to the prime minister and his cabinet ministers.”

The Thai New Year, or Songkran, began Monday and is traditionally a multi-day celebration in the country. People roam the streets, drenching one another and passers-by with water guns or containers of water.

This year, however, thousands of “red shirt” protesters — so named for their clothing — have rallied for days, saying that Abhisit’s 4-month-old government is not democratically elected and that he should call new elections.

The demonstrators have given the prime minister repeated deadlines to resign, but those have come and gone.

“He insists under the circumstances, where there is a lot of deep division in the society … resigning won’t solve any standing conflict,” Panitan said.

On Sunday, Abhisit declared a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas after the protesters forced the postponement of a summit of Asian leaders in the southern coastal city of Pattaya, embarrassing the government.

Protesters took over two gas tanker trucks Monday, slashed the tires of a police van and surrounded the prime minister’s office, which seemed devoid of any security presence.

The government, which had appeared unable to order the army or police to use force in tamping down the protests, set up a “center” Monday with the heads of the police, army, air force and navy to coordinate a response, Panitan said.

“We’re trying as best as we can to go on with our daily lives, and we are hoping that our prime minister is able to resolve everything peacefully soon,” resident Supatra Jenstitwong said.

The protesters are loyal to Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup. The government has blamed him for fomenting the latest clashes.

“Now that they have tanks on the street and the soldiers are coming out, so it is time for the people to come out for a revolution,” Thaksin told supporters, speaking by video link from an unknown location.

Immediately after Abhisit’s state-of-emergency declaration, dozens of protesters stormed the country’s interior ministry and pelted Abhisit’s car with rocks, chairs, flags and sticks as he escaped.

Protesters climbed atop two military armored cars after lying in the road and blocking their path. A police officer was led away by demonstrators and beaten, said Sathit Wongnongtoey, an official in the prime minister’s office.

“It’s unprecedented,” opposition member Jakrapob Penkair said Monday. “I wouldn’t say it is a revolution. At least it’s a starting point of the people’s uprising against the old power.”

The emergency measure allows officials to arrest and detain protesters without a court order, and to restrict gatherings, authorities said.

Bruce Bugajski and his brother arrived Sunday night for a four-day trip to Thailand and were driven to their hotel by a cabdriver with a red ribbon on his dashboard, signifying his support for the protesters. The normally congested highways leading into the city were deserted.

“He had a picture of the old prime minister,” Bugajski said. “He said that’s who he wants to get back to power down here.”

Monday morning, the scene outside their hotel was calm, a contrast to the images of clashes blaring from their television screen.

“Kids were outside squirting tourists with their squirt guns, and some of the tourists were getting into it,” Bugajski said. “It’s quite a different picture.”

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4 Responses

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  1. from Bangkok Thailand said, on April 14, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    I’m writing from Bangkok – the capital of Thailand.

    I’m not a press or working for any news/media organization.

    I’m just a normal office worker in mid 30’s and share the same point of view with many ‘working class’ people in this country.

    I want to make it clear that the recent incident dubbed by many international presses as ‘violence’ is actually the “one-sided violence”. It is the violence created by the Red-Shirt Protestors who at first, claimed that they rallied for the ‘true’ democracy; however, in less than a week, it was so clear to all Thai people that they are just merely a group of street gangsters threatening the security of the people.

    Blocking the road, hi-jacking the gas-tank trolleys and parking them in front of the residential areas, hi-jacking the buses and using them to block many roads leading to hospitals, burning the tires, the ATM kiosks, the mosque, the cars, invading the residential lanes, etc. – all of these are nothing but the act of threatening other people’s right for basic peace & security in life.

    Can the world believe that their goal for this act is for the ‘true’ democracy?

    No matter how violent or chaotic threats they’ve given to the innocent people; the government still believes in ‘peaceful & merciful’ way to deal with them. With the support from the Police and the Army, every police and army soldier was commanded not to shoot the protestors. They only use the ‘paper bullets’ (as they used in practice) – if they aimed to the protestors, and if they shot upwards to the sky to scare the protestors– only when they use the real bullets. So I want to make it clear here that if you see the photo of the soldiers aiming the rifle to the protestors – that’s the paper bullets.

    So far, there’re 2 deaths – and that’s innocent people shot dead by the Red-Shirt protestors right in front of their homes.

    The Protestors claimed the death toll on their side, and that’s not true, there’s no death, just some minor injuries – this is because the government’s first priority is to protect the security of all Thais no matter what the colour of their shirts is.

    And please bear in mind every time you report or hear the interview from the tyrant Thaksin Shinawatra – the coward man running away from this guilt. He has a dirty background and his money is dirty, that’s why he was denied the visa from the UK. He’s behind all the violence, he’s the prime root cause of all the problems, he’s the one who provokes the protestors to create the riot because he thinks that this will ‘reset’ everything and he can return to Thailand as innocent and reclaim the money – the money that he corrupted the whole nation while he’s in the Prime Minister office.

    Thailand is still the same country you know, peaceful and happy; we just have one bad citizen – and our government and the Thai people are dealing with him. The end of this guy is soon.

  2. […] Thank You for your views “Bangkok Thailand”   Submitted on 2009/04/14 at 1:46pm […]

  3. kay said, on April 14, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    I’m so glad and ploud to our PM, Abhisit and the soldiers..(not the Thai polices!!) However, I don’t trust the brutal red t-shirts for their reunion. They don’t feel guilty but are forced to end. Above of all, their boss, immoral Taksin, the criminal still want to destroy THailand. I wish Thai government could put him into jail very soon. I really wish good co-operation from our neighbour like Arab Emirate!(because this cruel criminal, Taksin and his family still enjoy shopping in Dubai while our country is burning!!)

    PS: Thanks for the fairness CNN interviewing to our PM! I hope CNN journalist in Thailand would not be bias to our government anymore!! ( I think he’s been wtih Taksin too long! If possible, move him away, please)

  4. Sirirat said, on April 15, 2009 at 12:12 am

    What Thaksin said ,was the opposite of what he really done.He said he love peace,but his red shirt gangster did the opposite.He used his money(our money) to buy every thing,to order the lobbyist to destroy his country.He is not a thai anymore.

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