Thai govt acts tough as protests escalate

Rejects UN role in talks

Thai govt acts tough as protests escalate

Hardline comments from the Thai government doused hopes of a compromise to end three days of chaotic fighting that has killed at least 29 people, all civilians, and wounded 221, trapping residents in homes and raising the risk of a broader conflict. Nattawut Saikai, a protest leader, called for a ceasefire and UN-moderated talks. “We have no other condition. We do not want any more losses,” he told supporters.

But the government swiftly dismissed the offer. “If they really want to talk, they should not set conditions like asking us to withdraw troops,” said Korbsak Sabhavasu, the prime minister’s secretary-general.

As fighting raged in two areas of the city of 15 million people, residents hoarded food at supermarkets, stayed indoors to fled to escape neighbourhoods transformed into battlegrounds. “Rejection of any ceasefire talk is very ominous,” said political scientist Vienrat Nethito at Chulalongkorn University. “This pretty much guarantees fighting will continue and the city will be even closer to the brink of civil war.”
The most severe fighting took place in the Bon Kai area of Rama IV, a major artery to the business district. Troops and snipers fired machine guns as protesters hurled petrol bombs and burned walls of kerosene-soaked tires to camouflage themselves.
One protester was shot in the head by a sniper, a witness said. By afternoon, as clashes intensified, a grenade was tossed at troops, who responded with gunfire, the witness said.

Call for surrender
Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn called on protest leaders to surrender and end protest immediately.

“We will move forward. We cannot retreat now,” Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in a televised statement, encapsulating the government’s mood.
Monday and Tuesday were declared public holidays, but banks and financial markets would remain open.

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