Fearing crackdown, 'Red Shirts' halt military convoy
Hundreds of anti-government demonstrators halted a train carrying military trucks and hundreds of troops through Thailand's rural north-east on Wednesday, believing it was part of the government's threatened crackdown on "Red Shirt" protests.
AFP - Thailand's political crisis has spread to the rural northeast, where protesters blockaded a military train and detained hundreds of troops, officials said Thursday.
Hundreds of anti-government campaigners halted a train carrying armed soldiers and military trucks Wednesday, saying they feared it was part of a looming crackdown on their Bangkok rallying base.
Police said the train was headed for the Muslim-majority southern provinces where a separatist insurgency is raging, and later struck a deal with the "Red Shirts" who will now accompany it on its journey.
"We have reached agreement with the Reds that they will release the train to go to the south," said Khon Kaen provincial police commander Major General Pattanee Siriwatanee.
"Ten Reds people, under police protection, will travel with the train to make sure the troops and equipment definitely go there."
In another district of Khon Kaen province overnight, hundreds of red-shirted protesters stopped three military buses with troops aboard and forced them to return to their base.
And in a third incident nearby, the army said that 200 soldiers were detained by protesters but later released.
During the confrontation centred on the train, the Reds' leaders had urged their supporters in the northeast to reinforce the hundreds of campaigners surrounding the train.
The army threatened to charge those responsible with obstruction and illegal detention, and said they had 600 troops and police on standby to launch a crackdown if necessary.
The red-shirted protesters are part of a movement that has staged rolling demonstrations in the capital Bangkok since mid-March. The rallies remained peaceful until April 10 when street clashes left 25 people dead.
The protest movement, which draws much of its support from the rural poor, is largely loyal to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and is living in exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.
The Reds say the current government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is undemocratic because it came to power in a parliamentary vote after a court ruling removed Thaksin's allies from office.