Eighteen killed in Thailand violence (Lead)April 11th, 2010 - 11:10 am ICT by IANS
Bangkok, April 11 (DPA) Fierce clashes between Thai troops and protesters in Bangkok claimed at least 18 lives and injured 807, government sources said Sunday.
Among the dead were 14 civilians, including one Japanese photographer working for the Thomson Reuters news agency, and four soldiers, the latest report from the government’s Narenthorn Medical Centre said.
A tense standoff between government troops and anti-government demonstrators continued Sunday in the two main protest sites, Phan Fa Bridge in the old part of the capital, and at Ratchaprasong, a posh shopping and hotel district in modern Bangkok.
On Saturday the government, which placed Bangkok and surrounding provinces under emergency law, moved to enforce the decree by sending troops to clear out tens of thousands of supporters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) from Phan Fa Bridge. The move sparking bloody clashes as the protesters refused to budge
and fought back with sticks, Molotov cocktails, grenades and rifles.
The UDD, also called the red shirts, has been staging protests at Phan Fa Bridge for almost a month, calling on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament and hold new elections.
In their efforts to increase pressure on the government to meet their demands, the red shirts April 3 occupied the Ratchaprasong intersection, an upmarket shopping and hotel district.
On Wednesday, they attacked Parliament building, forcing legislators to flee and prompting Abhisit to declare emergency law, a decree that bans gatherings of more than five people and provides broad immunity for officials involved in cracking down on dissent.
The red shirts defied the emergency decree Friday with the seizure of the ThaiCom Satellite station, to force the People Channel TV back on the air. The channel, their main media outlet, had been cut by the government.
On Saturday, the government decided to get tough and clear the protesters from Phan Fa, and thereafter Ratchaprasong.
But the troops ran into stiff resistance, especially at Khok Wua intersection on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, where protesters lobbed grenades at the troops, injuring more than 20.
The soldiers reportedly responded with live bullets, causing casualties.
In most encounters the troops used water cannon, tear gas, batons and rubber bullets.
By 9 p.m. (1400 GMT), with injuries mounting on both sides, the government agreed to withdraw its troops from Phan Fa and sued for truce negotiations, which the UDD leadership initially refused.
UDD chairman Veera Muksikpong Saturday night called on Abhisit to “dissolve parliament and leave Thailand.”
But Abhisit has shown no inclination to step down.
“The government and I are duty-bound to resolve the problems, restore peace and maintain justice for the country,” he said in a televised broadcast Saturday midnight.
He promised to set up an independent body to determine the cause of deaths and injuries.
Tags: bloody clashes, channel tv, emergency decree, emergency law, fierce clashes, government sources, government troops, hotel district, japanese photographer, medical centre, molotov cocktails, narenthorn, parliament building, protest sites, reuters news agency, satellite station, tense standoff, thaicom satellite, thailand violence, udd