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Asia-pacific

Army cracks down on anti-government protesters

©

Video by Sophie DAVIDSON , Marion GAUDIN

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-04-13

Thai troops cracked down on supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra on Monday in a bid to end days of anti-government protest. A local resident was killed in clashes with protesters, according to government officials.

The Thai army cracked down on demonstrators on Monday in the capital Bangkok as protesters charged security lines with hijacked buses and lobbed petrol bombs toward military lines.

 

One man was killed  in clashes with anti-government demonstrators in Bangkok on Monday.


"One hour ago there was a serious clash near Government House between protesters and local residents. Three were shot and one of them died at hospital," cabinet minister Satit Wongnhongtaey said on local television.

 

Reports say police fired volleys of bullets into the air and tear-gassed the protesters as they advanced on Monday afternoon.

Early evening, a building in Thailand's education ministry complex was ablaze after being hit by petrol bombs, a security guard told AFP. 

 

Reporting from Bangkok, RFI correspondent Arnaud Dubus said: “I see buses on fire and demonstrators who are waiting to be attacked by soldiers who are progressing through the capital.”

 

“It seems the army wants to march on the Government House,” he added. Some 10,000 protesters loyal to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, have gathered round Government House to demand his return. According to media reports, the army has set up roadblocks to stop demonstrators from returning to the Government House area.

 

Early on Monday, the army launched a pre-dawn operation to clear the busy Din Daeng intersection, two kilometres from the PM’s offices at Government House, which had been blocked by anti-government protesters clad in red. Clashes at the junction had injured over 94 people, with two civilians and two soldiers suffering from gunshot wounds, reports say.

 

It is the first time the army has taken action since PM Abhisit Vejjajiva ordered tanks and soldiers onto the streets of Bangkok on Sunday. On Monday, Thailand's military also warned it will use "all possible means" to restore order.

 

Embattled PM vows return to calm

The government also said it would take measures to secure major ports and airports, in a move to secure the city after Abhisit issued an emergency decree on Sunday to curb protests against his government. Protesters, however, demonstrated in several locations in the capital and blocked key intersections in defiance of the decree.

 

After forcing the cancellation of the ASEAN summit on Saturday, the “red shirts” are calling for the resignation of Abhisit, just four months after he took office. They demand the return of their leader Thaksin, a tycoon-turned-politician who fled into exile in 2008.

 

According to Dubus, the whereabouts of Abhisit is unknown. “It’s a mystery,” he said, “Demonstrators tried to attack him yesterday afternoon and now his location is unknown.” Abhisit has however regularly appeared on TV to justify police operations.

 

Former PM ready to lead people’s uprising

Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and is now living in exile to avoid jail on a corruption conviction, has been making nightly phone calls to his supporters from his place of exile. He told protestors on Sunday night he was ready to move back to Thailand to lead a people's uprising if there was a coup.

 

Last year, the "red shirts" were in power and it was the "yellow shirts" - royalist supporters of the current government - who held nearly nonstop protests in the capital, culminating in a week-long occupation of Bangkok's main airports.

Date created : 2009-04-13

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