Court issues arrest warrant for ex-PM Thaksin
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A Thai court has issued an arrest warrant for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra (pictured) and twelve other suspected protest leaders just hours after Thaksin supporters ended their three-week siege of Government House in Bangkok.
Anti-government protesters walked away from Government House in Bangkok on Tuesday after Thai troops surrounded them overnight and seemed poised to drive them out.
A few hours later, a Thai court issued arrest warrants for exiled ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra and 12 of his supporters, police said. The warrant said the anti-government protesters’ hero was sought for inciting people to break the law and cause unrest, a charge punishable with seven years in jail.
Reporting from Bangkok, FRANCE 24’s Cyril Payen said hundreds of weary demonstrators were heading for home, but that they remained committed to their struggle to see Thaksin return to power.
“We saw a procession of red-shirted demonstrators, some despondent, others crying,” he said, “there was a lot of bitterness as demonstrators returned to poor provinces, mostly in the north-east of the country.”
Early on Tuesday, several red-shirted leaders agreed to hand themselves in to police and face charges of violating a state of emergency, which banned all large gatherings.
Joined on the phone, Thaksin ally Nattwaut Saikuar – who was charged with breaking traffic laws, inciting people to break the law and illegal assembly of more than 10 people – says police planned on transferring them to a military-run detention camp.
"The police admitted that they would take us to solitary confinement in a military camp. It sparked controversy because this is a criminal charge. It must be police who detain us, not the army," he said.
Red shirts end siege, not fight
Protest leaders say they decided to end the siege around Government House to avoid a potential bloodshed as police and army closed in on several thousand protesters overnight on Monday.
"The reason that we have decided to disperse is because we want to avert any loss of life. Our protesters really want to fight and sacrifice themselves so we wanted to prevent a catastrophe," Prateep Ungsongtham Hata, one of the core protest leaders, told AFP.
The red-shirted protesters are demanding the resignation of PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, saying he is in office because Thaksin allies were illegally pushed out. The premier has refused to step down, urging demonstrators to go home.
On Sunday, PM Abhisit issued an emergency decree after the “red shirts” forced the cancellation of an ASEAN summit scheduled for Saturday.
Two dead in clashes on Monday
On Monday, morning clashes between demonstrators and troops at a key city intersection left two people dead and 123 injured, according to AFP. Troops tear-gassed protesters and shot volleys of bullets in the air as they advanced through the streets. Meanwhile, demonstrators sent buses and threw Molotov cocktails and rocks into military lines.
Thailand's intractable political crisis broadly pits royalists, the military and the urban middle-class against the rural poor loyal to Thaksin. Analysts say that even if this week's violence subsides, the country's deep divisions will remain.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has however regained some of his lost credibility after restoring order in Bangkok, a tourist hotspot that has seen its streets deserted amid fighting on the street.