Deadly Bangkok clashes spread

Toll of three days violence rises to 22; premier calls for an end to protest

Deadly Bangkok clashes spread

Throughout the day and into the night, gunfire and a series of explosions shook a neighbourhood in central Bangkok that includes the city’s night bazaar and a kickboxing stadium. The government reported that six  people were killed on Saturday, bringing the death toll of three days of clashes to 22, with 172 people injured.

“The government cannot turn back,” Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in a nationally televised address on Saturday night. “Ending the rally is the only way to prevent calamity,” he said.

The military appeared to be taking a different tack on Saturday than it did last month, when it stood down after a day of violence that killed 25 soldiers and civilians and shook this city.

More troops
The military said it was calling in reinforcements, adding to the thousands of troops already in the city, and there were many reports on the streets that snipers were firing at protesters. Some of the protesters were setting barricades of tires on fire, sending up tall plumes of smoke apparently in an effort to keep out troops. The protesters, who began their demonstration here two months ago, have demanded the resignation of the government and new elections. But the movement, which is made up of farmers and the urban poor, many of them supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister deposed in a 2006 military coup, has fractured and their ultimate demands are now not clear.
In his television appearance on Saturday, Abhisit tried to explain the government’s tougher stance, saying he feared that armed groups, which he said were siding with the demonstrators, could overthrow the government.

“We cannot let the country remain in this condition, where people do not respect the law,” he said. Shortly before he spoke, leaders of the country’s powerful military appeared on television in what may have been a deliberate show of unity for an army notorious for its divisions and intrigue.

Inside the protesters’ barricaded encampment the crowds were thinner and more subdued than they had been before the shootings began. Under rows of tents and in a plaza in front of a sound stage, many sleeping mats and plastic chairs stood empty, and protest leaders did not offer their accustomed rousing speeches from the stage.
The New York Times

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