The Thai Prime Minister promised to end street protests by supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra within days on Monday. After a summit of regional leaders was cancelled at the weekend, police moved to clear the streets of the capital. Over 70 people were injured in clashes between police and protesters. Meanwhile, at least one death was reported after a gun fight between protesters and some local residents.
Dozens were injured in clashes between the police and protesters
Red-shirted protesters blocked roads and set fire to public buses in Bangkok in yet another effort to unseat the government. The military proceeded to clear the city’s roads.
Clashes about 15 kilometres from the city centre left several dozen people injured. Residents had to be evacuated from a nearby apartment building after protesters commandeered a gas truck.
Troops were forced to fire on a bus commandeered by a protestor when the man directly drove the bus towards army lines. The man was shot and wounded.
But analysts said that generally the steps taken by the government were measured in a bid to avoid bloodshed.
End to protests within days, promises PM
The Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, made regular appearances on national TV throughout the day. He told the general public that the government would end the three-week-long street protests within days.
Abhisit had vowed to introduce tougher measures after being forced to cancel a summit of regional leaders at the weekend. Pro-Thaksin supporters had crashed through the doors of a key convention building in the resort town of Pattaya, where the Association of South-East Asian Nations meeting was due to take place.
Sunai Phasuk, a representative for the US-based Human Rights Watch in Thailand, said he regretted that the government had failed to apply sufficient crowd control: “It’s kind of sad to me that when they can do without resorting to heavy handed actions, they cannot do it; they wait until its too late. This repeats itself again and again in Thai history.”
Confrontation will get increasingly critical
Somphob Manarangsan, a university economist in Bangkok, said it was inevitable that clashes would follow the events in Pattaya and “the confrontation between the opposition and the Thai government would only get increasingly more critical.”
Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and has been charged with corruption, spoke to international media and accused the government of covering up deaths and casualties. The government and the military denied his claims.
Late on Monday, the government called on people to remain alert and said it expected a final stand by the protesters near their main base not far from Government House.