Thai protesters clash with residents, two killed

April 13th, 2009 - 11:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Abhisit Vejjajiva Bangkok, April 13 (DPA) Two men were killed in the Thai capital after anti-government protesters clashed with residents near their main rally site Monday night, according to reports and officials.
As the city braced for a final army move against protesters, who closed down much of the city over the weekend, the so-called Red Shirts fired shots at people not far from the main rally site. Two residents, aged 54 and 19, were killed and a dozen injured, said a government spokesman on television. A member of a medical foundation also confirmed the deaths in local press reports.

Gunfire was also heard around the Government House where the protesters have set up their main rally. A Red Shirt leader, Jakrapob Penkair, said the authorities are running a dirty tricks campaign to discredit the movement using agent provocateurs and thugs.

There are reports of clashes elsewhere in Bangkok and in the provinces following Monday’s expected army crackdown against an anti-government movement whose members invaded a 16-nation Asia region summit in the nearby resort of Pattaya Saturday. The summit was cancelled greatly damaging Thailand’s image.

Thousands of battle-ready troops spread out across the city Monday to clear away barricades firing bullets into the air and using tear gas to take control of the many key road junctions that had been seized after the Red Shirt success in cancelling the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

By nightfall, the demonstrators had mostly withdrawn to the area around Government House where they have been rallying for three weeks.

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the protest leader in self-exile, demanded in a CNN interview the army stop using unreasonable force against unarmed protesters - or face the condemnation of the world.

Scores of people, including soldiers, were injured earlier when troops swept down streets, firing in the air and shooting directly at buses driven at them by protesters.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said 70 people had been wounded, 23 of them soldiers. No one had died, he stressed.

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