Troops patrol Thai streets after deadly protests

October 8, 2008 12:00 am

, BANGKOK, October 8 – Troops patrolled Bangkok’s streets Wednesday and police guarded the prime minister’s residence a day after violent clashes rocked the Thai capital, leaving two people dead and hundreds injured.

Dressed in khaki anti-riot gear, unarmed personnel from the army, navy and air force were deployed outside key government buildings including parliament, the focus of Tuesday’s deadly chaos.

Protesters from the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) were quick to blame security forces for the unrest, when police fired tear gas at a crowd of thousands marching on parliament and angry mobs retaliated with gunfire and fighting.

"Our fellow friends died because of Thai police. We will mourn those who have died and are injured," said PAD spokeswoman Anchalee Paireerak.

Despite the strong military presence, another PAD member, who refused to be named, said the group would fight on.

"We will clear away our tears and we will stand up and fight with one heart and two hands," she told AFP.

One female protester was killed during the clashes after suffering internal injuries, a doctor from a Bangkok hospital said.

A man was also killed in a car bombing near the protest site, while police said eight of their officers were shot or stabbed.

The unrest followed months of demonstrations aimed at removing Thailand’s elected government over its ties to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a September 2006 coup.

Thailand’s media described the violence in cataclysmic terms Wednesday, the English-language daily The Nation said the "mini civil war" had created a "bloodbath in Bangkok", and accused police of aggravating the situation.

"There can be no justification for the authorities to have used such force to disperse the peaceful crowd," the Bangkok Post wrote.

An army spokesman said police called in the military to help quell protests but insisted there would be no fresh military takeover in Thailand, which has suffered 18 coups since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932.

"Absolutely the military will not stage a coup," Army Chief General Anupong Paojinda told reporters on Tuesday. "It’s not good for our country."

Security was also tight at Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat’s house in the northern outskirts of Bangkok.

The premier, who has only been in the post for three weeks, has declared he will not resign or declare a state of emergency in the capital, although one of his deputies, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, has already stood down.

The streets around parliament were almost deserted early Wednesday, except for police deployed to sweep the area of debris and about 20 overturned cars left from the clashes.

Schools around parliament were closed, but in the rest of Bangkok, people went to work and continued their daily chores seemingly unaffected by events a day earlier.

Government medical officials said 428 people were injured in the violence, which came after police tried to disperse thousands of protesters surrounding parliament to try to prevent Somchai from giving his first policy speech.

The address went ahead, but the special parliamentary session ended after two hours and protesters blockaded lawmakers inside, forcing Somchai and five aides to climb a fence to escape the mob, an AFP correspondent said.

Somchai’s People Power Party won elections last December which marked the end of a period of military rule dating from the 2006 coup, but the old power elite in the palace and military resented the return of Thaksin’s allies.


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