Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Is Carla Bruni against a political comeback for Sarkozy?

Read more

DEBATE

Clone of Pakistan Protests: Democracy put the test (Part Two)

Read more

DEBATE

Pakistan Protests: Democracy put the test (Part One)

Read more

ENCORE!

The French Maestro of Soul

Read more

FOCUS

US tobacco giants want lion's share of e-cigarette business

Read more

ENCORE!

Bold and bonkers: Kate Bush is back on stage

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Simon Serfaty, US foreign policy specialist

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'It's a War, Stupid!'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

French PM calls on ECB to go further to help economy

Read more

  • UN backs inquiry of IS group’s alleged crimes in Iraq

    Read more

  • French education ministry picture sparks racist abuse

    Read more

  • Video: Ukraine’s children return to school as fighting rages on

    Read more

  • US urges Israel to reverse West Bank land seizure

    Read more

  • Lesotho PM calls for regional peacekeeping force after ‘coup’

    Read more

  • Ukrainian forces retreat from Luhansk airport after clashes

    Read more

  • Teddy Riner, France’s unstoppable judo champion

    Read more

  • Death toll rises in Paris apartment building blast

    Read more

  • Iraqi forces free Amerli in biggest victory over IS militants since June

    Read more

  • French police arrest hungry hedgehog hunters

    Read more

  • Tripoli under control of militias, says government

    Read more

  • Monaco’s Falcao set for Man Utd loan on transfer deadline day

    Read more

  • Spain orders custody for parents of ill British boy

    Read more

  • Anti-government protesters storm Pakistan's state TV

    Read more

  • Putin calls for talks on 'statehood' for east Ukraine

    Read more

  • Web doc on French self-immolation protests takes top prize

    Read more

Asia-pacific

Army smashes into protest zone in deadly assault

Video by Rebecca BOWRING

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-19

Heavy fighting raged Wednesday in central Bangkok as Thai troops punched through 'Red Shirt' protest zone barricades. At least five people were killed, according to Thai police, including an Italian man.

AFP - Thai troops battled with anti-government protesters Wednesday, after smashing into their rally zone using armoured vehicles and tearing down towering barricades of tyres and razor wire.


Gunfire was being exchanged in clashes in the protest encampment, which the "Red Shirts" have occupied for six weeks, defying a military containment operation launched last Thursday that left 39 dead.
  

An AFP photographer saw two protesters lying dead inside the camp, while hospital officials said an Italian journalist was also killed in the clashes. At least seven others were wounded and sent to hospital.
  
In the face of the barrage, some 100 other protesters fled towards the movement's main rally stage in the heart of their sprawling encampment, which has shut down Bangkok's main shopping district.
  
Reds leaders tried to quell a rising sense of panic among some 5,000 supporters including many women and children who are still inside the rally base despite the violence and orders to leave.
  
Some were openly crying and others put on face masks in fear of tear gas attacks.
  
"Please stay calm today, no matter what happens we will stay here together," leader Nattawut Saikuar said from the stage where protesters were gathered for safety, directing them to a nearby Buddhist temple if necessary.
  

"Those who fear for your life go to the temple, but those who volunteer to stay here you are free to do so."
  
The government said the offensive was aimed at establishing a secure perimeter around the protest base, but the military offensive now appeared to be aimed at completely closing down the camp.
  
"The operations are designed to make sure that the security officers can provide security and safety to the public at large. The operations will continue throughout the day," said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.
  
"We would like to reassure the citizens and residents of Bangkok that the operations are designed to make sure that we stabilise the area," he said in a televised address.
  
A senator involved in failed last-minute peace talks said he feared the military operation, launched after the Reds defied a Monday deadline to disperse, would cause serious loss of life.
  
"The government has chosen to decisively enforce the law. The signals are that absolutely the army will win, but the losses will be unbearable," said General Lertrat Rattanavanich.
  
"Certainly based on all the signs that I have seen there will be a crackdown, not a containment," added the senator, who was one of a group in the upper house who tried to act as mediators.
  
Hundreds of army and police advanced towards the protest zone in the pre-dawn hours, with trucks dropping off troops wearing balaclavas and carrying weapons and riot shields, while a helicopter circled overhead.
  
Several large fires broke out at barricades and major buildings around the protest zone, sending out massive clouds of black smoke that obscured the Bangkok skyline.
  
Dozens of soldiers crept along Wireless Road, which runs parallel to the protest zone, crouching behind trees and poles and scurrying up foot bridges near the US embassy, which has been closed.
  
"Danger zone," one soldier said, waving reporters back as muffled cracks rang out from nearby Lumpini park, which the protesters had spilled into during an occupation that has forced hotels and shopping centres to close.
  
Security forces have battled with the Reds since last Thursday as they attempted to seal off the rally base, turning parts of the city into no-go zones as troops used live ammunition against protesters, who fought back mainly with homemade weapons.
  
The Reds are campaigning for elections to replace the administration of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, which they consider illegitimate because it came to power with the backing of the army in a 2008 parliamentary vote.
  
They are mostly supporters of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a 2006 coup. A controversial court ruling ejected his elected allies from power, paving the way for Abhisit's government to be appointed.
  
Many countries have warned their nations against travelling to Thailand. Australia Wednesday said travellers should not visit Bangkok, citing the deteriorating security situation.

Date created : 2010-05-19

  • THAILAND

    Talks stall as UN urges both sides to ‘step back from the brink’

    Read more

  • THAILAND

    'Red Shirt' protesters defy deadline to evacuate fortified camp

    Read more

  • THAILAND

    The 'Red Commander': A soldier to the end

    Read more

COMMENT(S)