Thai army begins crackdown on anti-government protestsApril 13th, 2009 - 9:24 am ICT by IANS
Bangkok, April 13 (DPA) Thai soldiers fired shots in the air early Monday and used tear gas against protestors blocking a main road junction in Bangkok, witnesses said.
The city health department reported that 68 people had been treated for injuries, mostly minor, after troops cleared the intersection. A protest leader, Jatuporn Promphan, claimed the Army killed six people.
The Army moved in early morning in what appeared to be a slow but firm start to the anticipated crackdown against protestors loyal to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who have shut down much of central Bangkok.
The clashes occurred near Victory Monument, some distance from the centre of the protests in the streets around Government House.
Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the Army spokesman, said 300 protesters were in the area when security forces moved in. He said the troops first tried to negotiate with the protesters, who were allegedly armed with Molotov cocktails and tear gas. The talks broke down after some protesters tried to ram buses against the soldiers, the Nation newspaper reported.
“The troops had to fire into the air … and took action against the protesters,” the Nation quoted him as saying.
Police said about 30,000 protestors had seized many road junctions across the official areas of the city, commandeered several city buses and erected makeshift barricades.
Sansern said there would be more actions to follow.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding provinces Sunday in a bid to quell anti-government protests that forced the cancellation of the 16-nation ASEAN summit the previous day.
Abhisit, in a TV address, said the nation was “in danger” because of unreasonable, self-serving people. The prime minister, who had narrowly escaped being beaten up himself by protestors, warned that a line had been crossed and a very firm response was required.
The government was widely criticised Sunday for failing to crackdown on the relatively small number of protestors who invaded the ASEAN summit venue at the nearby seaside resort of Pattaya over the weekend.
Thailand has been roiled by political strife since the overthrow of Thaksin in September 2006 in a military coup. Subsequent governments have been rejected by the military and bureaucracy, yet Abhisit’s anti-Thaksin Democrat party cannot win a clear majority in an election. Abhisit gained power four months ago after a political faction defected from the Thaksin camp.
Thaksin is popular especially with the rural poor because of his populist economic policies that are a novelty in Thailand. But he is loathed and distrusted by much of the military, palace and middle class for what they say is his intolerance and corruption.
Thaksin, who has spent recent weeks whipping up support for “a revolution against an illegal government”, has lived abroad after being sentenced to two years on charges of abusing his powers.
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