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Asia

Thai prime minister declares state of emergency in Bangkok

Abhisit Vejjajiva's televised announcement came after several senior government officials were evacuated from parliament by helicopter. This move followed a storming of the building by Red Shirt protesters.

Red Shirts refuse to budge from the commercial district

Red Shirts refuse to budge from the commercial district

At first, the police who were in full riot gear did not budge as the Red Shirts gathered outside the parliament gates on Wednesday morning.

However, the situation escalated when two smoke bombs were allegedly thrown into the crowd by security personnel. The demonstrators stormed the grounds and the lawmakers were forced to break up their meeting.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and several other senior government members scaled a wall to escape and were brought to safety by a military helicopter.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban was forced to escape parliament by helicopter

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban was forced to escape parliament by helicopter

Provocateurs inciting violence

There were reportedly some agents provocateurs among the demonstrators. Some people wearing Red Shirts were relieved of pistols and bullets by the protesters’ own security teams. They were then handed over to police.

One of the Red Shirts' security personnel – a former policeman – was angry: "We found these weapons on people who were wearing red shirts but who don’t belong to us. So we want to know who they belong to and how did they end up on the parliament grounds? Someone is trying to shed a bad light on the Red Shirts and to incite violence."

Some Red Shirts were caught with weapons but other protesters said they were trying to incite violence

Some Red Shirts were caught with weapons but other protesters said they were trying to incite violence

Generally, the protests that have been going on for over four weeks now have been peaceful. Tens of thousands have blocked key intersections in Bangkok's city center.

Camped out in the exhausting heat

The Red Shirts, who are mainly from Thailand's poorer northern and northeastern provinces, have been camping out on the streets in temperatures of over 40 degrees centigrade.

The heat is exhausting for the protesters and the thousands of security forces that have been deployed by the government. However, the protesters are not allowing this to get them down.

They say they will continue their protests until their demands are met. They want the government to dissolve parliament and call new elections.

"I think the government won't be able to hold much longer. I haven’t seen so many anti-government protesters on the street before," says one.

"The government won’t manage to get rid of us," vows another. "Our leaders can mobilize over 30,000 people in no time."

PM promises not to resort to violence

So far government threats to arrest the leaders of the protests have not been carried out and this has emboldened the Red Shirts – mostly supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The state of emergency bans public gatherings of more than five people and gives the army broader powers to control crowds but Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has promised not to resort to force.

Some media reports have quoted Thailand’s army chief as telling the prime minister there is no justification to use force to disperse the crowds and reminding him that "they are all Thais".

Author: Bernd Musch-Borowska / act
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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