The Thai riot police clashed with thousands of protestors who had barricaded the Thai parliament on Tuesday in a bid to prevent the Thai Prime Minister from delivering a key policy speech. One woman was killed and at least 350 people were injured in the clashes. The deputy prime minister resigned in protest against the use of excessive violence. Meanwhile, it was unclear whether a car bomb attack that also killed one was connected to the unrest or not.
The maiden speech of Thai Prime Minister Somchai was delayed as protesters barricaded the parliament building
The violence erupted early on Tuesday as riot police moved to break up protestors led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) who had barricaded the parliament in a bid to halt the Prime Minister, Somchai Wongasawt from making his maiden policy speech after coming to office in September.
Doctors at the scene of the first clashes reported dozens of injured from stun bombs or the firing of tear gas. One man lost the lower part of his leg. Several hospitals were put on high alert in case there were further casualties through the night.
“We are prepared for mass casualties in three to five hospitals around this area in case of bombs or tear gas,” said one doctor.
The clashes led to a delay in Prime Minister Somchai delivering his speech to parliament as well as a boycott by the opposition Democrat Party.
Deputy PM resigns
Later, the recently-appointed Deputy Prime Minister, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh -- a former prime minister and army chief -- announced his resignation over what he considered was an excessive use of force.
Chavalit had been negotiating with the PAD in a bid to end the occupation of the main government administration building that has been going on since August 26.
PAD protestors accuse of the government of undermining the country’s revered monarchy to seek amnesty for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin, who is Prime Minister Somchai’s brother-in-law, was ousted in a coup in 2006 and went into self-imposed exile. He returned to Thailand earlier this year. But in the face of corruption charges, he fled to Britain where he is now seeking asylum.
Ready to fight for the King
“We’re ready to fight for our King and for the monarchy because this government has a very clear intention of dissolving the monarchy,” said Mr Lee who was protesting on the streets.
“It also wants to amend the constitution to excuse Thaksin from all the wrongdoings he has done to this country. He will be excused of all the corruption charges -- we cannot accept that.”
Chris Baker, an author and commentator on Thai politics, said it appeared Thaksin had been looking to re-exert his influence over the governing People’s Power Party (PPP) since the resignation of former Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.
“The transition from Samak to Somchai was very much the reassertion of Thaksin’s influence. So, one possibility is that Thaksin is driving a harder line on the PAD. It’s certainly very strange given the way they were talking about reconciliation.”
In his address to Parliament, Somchai called for national reconciliation to end the crisis that can be traced back to anti-government protests when Thaksin was still in power. He said the government was determined to address the economic problems facing the country and added he was willing to listen to all sides to find as solution to end the crisis.
Not afraid of tear gas and force
But another PAD protester, Sam said that the demonstrators would not give up: “What the people want is for this government to resign. You can see people coming from all over the country -- they don’t have any fear because they think they are doing the right thing. Even if the government uses tear gas or use force they are willing to sacrifice themselves for what they believe.”
There were more injuries later in the day when police again used tear gas in a bid to disperse the crowd outside the parliament building to allow ministers, members and staff to leave the site.
Local reports said that three policemen in the parliament had been shot -- allegedly by PAD protesters. Two of them were said to have been severely wounded.
Late on Tuesday, a car bomb exploded in Bangkok not far from the scene of the protests and the government compound. One man was killed but it was unclear whether the incident was connected to the unrest or not, said officials.