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Europe urges restraint as Thai violence escalates

Governments around the world have urged their citizens to avoid or reconsider travelling to Bangkok amid deadly political violence on the streets of the Thai capital.

Shouting protesters in Thailand wearing the color red

The Red Shirt protesters stormed an Asian summit on Saturday

The European Union has expressed "great concern" at the situation, as red-shirted anti-government protesters ramp up their efforts to eject Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The EU's Czech presidency called on protesters "to refrain from further violent action," adding that they only risked harming "the stability and the reputation of their country.”

A Czech statement also said the EU hoped Thailand's political divide would be solved by democratic and parliamentary means, within the framework of the country's constitution.

Armed soldiers stand in front of a vehicle as a fire burns before them

Unrest claimed the lives of two people on Tuesday

Locals take up arms

Thai hospital officials say two people have been killed, and over 100 injured, in political violence on the streets of Bangkok.

The government said the deaths occurred when red-clad demonstrators clashed with local residents, who had armed themselves and set up roadblocks to counter the protesters near Government House, the seat of Thai government.

Elsewhere, anti-government protesters clashed with security forces, leaving over 20 troops injured, and set fire to a government ministry with Molotov cocktails.

Making it clear they were prepared for a "final stand," the so-called Red Shirt protesters later retreated to their camp near the offices of Prime Minister Abhisit, just one day after the embattled premier imposed a state of emergency in the capital.

Soldiers behind barbed wire fire rifles into the air

Soldiers have used live munition to disperse protesters

Abhisit warns protesters

"Those who want to help the government restore normality can return home," Abhisit said in a televised address. "The government has carefully mapped out a plan to implement the law."

Abhisit is under intense pressure after the Red Shirts stormed the venue of an Asian summit on Saturday. The summit had to be postponed as leaders abandoned the venue, some by helicopter.

The unrest moved on to Bangkok on Sunday, when demonstrators attacked a convoy carrying Abhisit out of the interior ministry. Much of the city was shut down on Monday for the Thai New Year holiday of Songkran.

Military to restore order by all means

Supreme military commander Songkitti Jaggabatara has, meanwhile, pledged to restore order using "all possible means.” His troops would not instigate violence, he said, but they did reserve the right to self-defense if attacked.

Thailand has been caught up in turmoil ever since the military toppled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a coup in 2006. The protesters want Abhisit, who only took office in December, to step down, saying he came to power through an undemocratic parliamentary vote following a court ruling that drove Thaksin's allies from power.

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