Thailand: Over 800 injured and 21 deaths during protests

Thailand’s military sticks knife in as election commission rules against Abhisit

April 12, 2010 — Thailand’s Election Commission has recommended the embattled ruling party of Abhisit Vejjajiva be dissolved, potentially handing victory to anti-government protesters who have demanded the prime minister step down.

The ruling comes the same day that Thailand’s influential army chief appeared to back a key demand of the protesters, saying Parliament might need to be dissolved to resolve the country’s violent political standoff.

Anupong Paochinda, Chief of Army:

“If the issue can’t be resolved through political means, I understand that the parliament dissolution has to come, now it seems like I’m involved in politics, I think it would end in dissolution. When to dissolve is for them to discuss, as well as the time frame and constitution amendment. Now I’m too involved. I understand that it will end with parliament dissolution. Some people have suggested a government of national unity, I don’t know. I’ll leave the matter to them. I only want peace, that’s all I’m asking.”

Together, these comments and the election body’s decision could spell the end of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s rule. The commission found the Democrat Party guilty of misusing campaign donations.

Abhisit was seen as having the backing of the military, which has traditionally played an important role in the country’s politics. But his control of security forces has increasingly been called into question as protesters repeatedly marched through the capital.

In the recent clashes 21 people were killed. It was the worst political violence Thailand has seen in two decades.

Red-shirted protesters paraded coffins through Thailand’s capital in a renewed show of contempt for the government.

Prime Minister Abhisit blamed the bloodshed on a small group of troublemakers, whom he called “terrorists”, and continued to refuse to dissolve his government:

Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thai Prime Minister:

“Looking at the overview of what’s happening currently, we are able to see clearly that a group of people, whom we can consider as terrorists, had taken advantage of the gathering of innocent people who rallied for democracy and against injustice, and used it as a tool of create unrest in the country, hoping for a major change.”

Post-mortem examinations appeared to contradict the Government’s claim that they were not killed by soldiers.

Autopsies carried out at the Police General Hospital in Bangkok showed that nine of those examined were shot by high velocity weapons in the head, chest or stomach – confirming the impression given by video footage, which shows one unarmed protester dropping to the ground after being struck by a bullet which removed the top of his head.

A Japanese cameraman, Hiro Muramoto of Reuters, also died after being shot in the chest. Source

April 12 2010- The last footage shot by Hiro Muramoto.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Reuters colleagues pay tribute to cameraman Hiro Muramoto, killed in Bangkok’s deadly weekend riots.

Exclusive FRANCE 24 footage shows soldiers firing directly at protesters contradicts the Thai government’s declaration that soldiers only fired live rounds into the air during Saturday night clashes with “Red Shirt”

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Thailand protests claim first lives

Thai army pulls back from protest clashes; 15 dead

By GRANT PECK

April 10 2010

BANGKOK — A crackdown on anti-government protesters in Thailand’s capital Saturday left at least 15 people dead and more than 650 injured, with no progress toward ending a monthlong standoff with demonstrators demanding new elections.

It was the worst violence in Bangkok since more than four dozen people were killed in an antimilitary protest in 1992. Bullet casings, rocks and pools of blood littered the streets where pitched battles raged for hours.

Army troops later retreated and asked protesters to do the same, resulting in an unofficial truce.

Four soldiers and 11 civilians, including a Japanese cameraman, were killed, according to the government’s Erawan emergency center.

The savage fighting erupted after security forces tried to push out demonstrators who have been staging a month of disruptive protests demanding that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajva dissolve Parliament and call new elections.

The demonstrations are part of a long-running battle between the mostly poor and rural supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the ruling elite they say orchestrated the 2006 military coup that removed him from power on corruption allegations.

The protesters, called “Red Shirts” for their garb, see the Oxford-educated Abhisit as a symbol of an elite impervious to the plight of Thailand’s poor and claim he took office illegitimately in December 2008 after the military pressured Parliament to vote for him.

Saturday’s violence and failure to dislodge the protesters are likely to make it harder to end the political deadlock. Previously, both sides had exercised considerable restraint.

Abhisit “failed miserably,” said Michael Nelson, a German scholar of Southeast Asian studies working in Bangkok.

Tanet Charoengmuang, a political scientist at Chiang Mai University sympathetic to the Red Shirt’s cause, said he expects the fighting will resume because the protesters are unafraid and the government refused to listen to them.

Abhisit went on national television shortly before midnight to pay condolences to the families of victims and indirectly assert that he would not bow to the protesters’ demands.

“The government and I are still responsible for easing the situation and trying to bring peace and order to the country,” Abhisit said.

Nelson said he had been hopeful the situation would calm down after the troops pulled back but that Abhisit’s TV appearance raised doubts because he seemed “totally defiant.”

The army had vowed to clear the protesters out of one of their two bases in Bangkok by nightfall, but the push instead set off street fighting. There was a continuous sound of gunfire and explosions, mostly from Molotov cocktails. After more than two hours of fierce clashes, the soldiers pulled back.

Army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd went on television to ask the protesters to retreat as well. He also accused them of firing live rounds and throwing grenades. An APTN cameraman saw two Red Shirt security guards carrying assault rifles.

At least 678 people were injured, according to the Erawan emergency center. The deaths included Japanese cameraman Hiro Muramoto, who worked for Thomson Reuters news agency. In a statement, Reuters said he was shot in the chest.

Most of the fighting took place around Democracy Monument, but spread to the Khao San Road area, a favorite of foreign backpackers.

Soldiers made repeated charges to clear the Red Shirts, while some tourists stood by watching. Two protesters and a Buddhist monk with them were badly beaten by soldiers and taken away by ambulance.

A Japanese tourist who was wearing a red shirt was also clubbed by soldiers until bystanders rescued him.

Thai media reported that several soldiers were captured by the protesters. Red Shirts also staged protests in several other provinces, seizing the provincial hall in the northern city of Chiang Mai, Thaksin’s hometown.

On Friday, the police and army failed to prevent demonstrators from breaking into the compound of a satellite transmission station and briefly restarting a pro-Red Shirt television station that had been shut down by the government under a state of emergency. The humiliating rout raised questions about how much control Abhisit has over the police and army.

Thailand’s military has traditionally played a major role in politics, staging almost a score of coups since the country became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

The Red Shirts have a second rally site in the heart of Bangkok’s upscale shopping district, and more troops were sent there Saturday as well. The city’s elevated mass transit system known as the Skytrain, which runs past that site, stopped running and closed all its stations.

Merchants say the demonstrations have cost them hundreds of millions of baht (tens of millions of dollars), and luxury hotels near the site have been under virtual siege.

Arrest warrants have been issued for 27 Red Shirt leaders, but none is known to have been taken into custody.

Associated Press writers Denis D. Gray, Jocelyn Gecker and Thanyarat Doksone contributed to this report. Source

Anti-government demonstrators run away from tear gas, during a clash against Thai security forces, Saturday, April 10, 2010, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai security forces launched a large-scale crackdown Saturday on anti-government demonstrators who have been staging disruptive protests in the Thai capital for the past month, vowing to clear one of their main encampments by nightfall. Scores of people have been hurt in street clashes. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Anti-government demonstrators run away from tear gas during a clash against Thai security forces, Saturday, April 10, 2010, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai security forces launched a large-scale crackdown Saturday on anti-government demonstrators who have been staging disruptive protests in the Thai capital for the past month, vowing to clear one of their main encampments by nightfall. Scores of people have been hurt in street clashes.(AP Photo/Wason Waintchakorn)

April 10 2010

At least four soldiers and four opposition protesters have been killed during clashes in the Thai capital Bangkok, with at least 500 others injured.

April 10 2010

The figures were given by Bangkok’s deputy governor. A bomb went off near the office of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva but no one was injured.

Red-shirted protesters hurled rocks as troops tried to clear them from the capital’s historic district. Riot police responded by firing rubber-coated bullets and tear gas. Tensions have been escalating as mass protests are entering their fifth week and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra keep defying a state of emergency in the capital.

The protesters in Bangkok, numbering tens of thousands, are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and fresh elections.

On Friday, a court issued a further 17 arrest warrants against opposition leaders accused of breaching emergency laws. None of them have so far been detained.  Source

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Thailand: Over 800 injured and 21 deaths during protests/Update April 12.Over 800 injured, 21 deaths

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Published in: on April 10, 2010 at 10:08 pm  Comments Off on Thailand protests claim first lives  
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Thailand protesters defy government decree

April 8  2010

Anti-government protesters remained camped out Thursday in the central streets of Bangkok, defying the state of emergency declared by the government after a group of them stormed Parliament.

But the number of protesters, who are mostly rural farmers from the country’s impoverished provincial regions, dwindled to 2,000 or 3,000, compared to the tens of thousands in recent days.

The protesters, who are known as the Red Shirts and characterize their movement as a class war against Bangkok’s elite, continued to call for the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and for new elections.

Residents of Bangkok were already under the strict Internal Security Act. But under the state of emergency declaration, the military authority has more sweeping powers to restore order and security forces can suspend certain civil liberties and ban public gatherings of more than five people.

Most analysts doubt the government will use force to crack down on protesters.

The demonstrations forced Abhisit to cancel a trip to Vietnam for a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders on Thursday. He has also nixed plans to attend a global nuclear summit in Washington on Monday.

Some of the protesters stormed parliament on Wednesday to press their demand that Abhisit dissolve parliament within 15 days and call new elections. He has offered to do so by the end of the year.

Demonstrators have been camped in Bangkok since March 12 and have ignored previous decrees that they end their protests, which over the weekend forced at least six upscale shopping malls to close in Bangkok’s downtown commercial district.

The Red Shirts support ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose allies won elections in December 2007. Two resulting governments were forced out by court rulings.

A parliamentary vote brought Abhisit’s party to power in December 2008. The Red Shirts say his rule is undemocratic and that only new elections can restore integrity to Thai democracy. Source

Anti-government protests continue in Thailand

By John Roberts
April 7 2010

The three-week standoff between the Thai government and red-shirted protesters demanding new elections is continuing in Bangkok. The focus of the demonstrations shifted over the weekend to the Ratchaprasong shopping and business area of the capital where many five-star hotels, banks and shopping malls are located. At least 10,000 people took part in Saturday’s rally and thousands have maintained the protest.

The protesters, organised by United Front Against Dictatorship for Democracy (UDD), have defied government efforts to force them to leave. On Monday, they stormed the offices of the country’s Election Commission, demanding it decide on whether to prosecute the ruling Democrat Party for electoral irregularities. The demonstrators left the commission after it agreed to release its decision on April 20—a week earlier than scheduled.

The situation is tense. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva invoked the Internal Security Act in Bangkok and mobilised 50,000 police and troops in response to the protests. On Sunday, the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), a joint security force set up under the state of emergency, declared the vicinity surrounding the protest as a controlled area under the Internal Security Act and banned demonstrators from moving to other areas of the city. Yesterday CAPO approved arrest warrants for 10 UDD leaders.

UDD leaders insist that the protests will not end until Abhisit steps down and fresh elections are called. The protesters are supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006. Many are from poorer rural areas in the north and north east where the right-wing populist billionaire Thaksin built up a base of support on the basis of limited social reforms.

The government is backed by Thailand’s traditional ruling elites—the military, the monarchy, the state bureaucracy and the judiciary. The army formally relinquished power in 2007 after drawing up a new constitution. However, Thaksin’s supporters won the election and formed the government, resulting in a protracted standoff with the mainly middle class, anti-Thaksin protests. In 2008, the courts removed two prime ministers over alleged corruption and electoral fraud, paving the way for the installation of Abhisit at the head of a shaky coalition.

The latest round of anti-government protests began last month after a Supreme Court decision on February 26 stripped Thaksin of $US1.4 billion of his $2.3 billion in personal assets. The government initiated the case, in which Thaksin was accused of abusing his office to benefit his private business dealings.

As many as 150,000 protesters have taken part in continuous rallies. On March 28, UDD supporters forced unarmed soldiers to leave temples and a government building near their protest site, which up until last weekend was centred at the Phan Fah Bridge. The following day, thousands of demonstrators tried to enter a military base in northern Bangkok where the prime minister had been holed up for two weeks.

In an unprecedented bid to end the standoff, Abhisit met with three UDD leaders in nationally televised negotiations on March 28 and 29. The two lengthy sessions, which were widely watched, produced no resolution. Both sides played to the cameras. The prime minister offered to call elections, not due until December 2011, before the end of year. The UDD negotiators insisted that an election be held within 15 days.

On the face of it, the Abhisit government is in a strong position. The economy is expanding, with industrial production increasing by just over 30 percent in both January and February compared with a year earlier. As a result, it has the support of the media and business groups that have praised its economic management during the global economic crisis. However, the fact that the televised talks took place indicates that the government is aware of its weakness and lack of legitimacy.

The Democrat Party lost the 2001 election to Thaksin amid widespread hostility to its imposition of the IMF’s pro-market agenda that devastated significant sections of the Thai economy. The party subsequently lost elections in 2005 and 2006—a snap poll called by Thaksin to try to resolve the standoff with opposition protests. The Democrats also lost the 2007 election and have only 167 seats in the 480-seat national assembly. Abhisit only came to power in December 2008 after a court ruling dissolved the ruling pro-Thaksin party, and the military pressured its allies to join the Democrats.

The bias of courts, military and police toward the Democrats has only fuelled the anger of anti-government protesters. The police and military, who stood by while anti-Thaksin protesters occupied Bangkok’s two main airports for more than a week, are now preparing to crack down on the current pro-Thaksin rally. The election commission and courts, which helped oust two pro-Thaksin governments in 2008, have been dragging their feet on allegations of Democrat election misconduct that could potentially result in the deregistration of that party.

Behind these political grievances are sharpening social tensions. While the economy is expanding, the social divide between rich and poor is also deepening. Farmers in the rural north east have been hit by falling prices and growing debts. The average family in the region is in debt to 100,000 baht ($3,000).

Abhisit has tried to woo farmers through a program under the Farmers Reconstruction and Development Fund, designed to help 510,000 farmers with a collective debt of 80 billion baht. Under the scheme, if farmers agree to pay back half their debt, they will be entitled to a moratorium on the remainder. But like Abhisit’s other pro-poor measures, the fund provides only limited assistance and has had little political impact.

Thaksin and the UDD leadership are seeking to exploit the widespread social discontent to bolster their own political position in what has been five years of bitter infighting in the ruling elites. Less competitive layers of Thai business, particularly small and medium companies, turned on Thaksin after he continued to open up the country to foreign capital. Neither of the rival factions is capable of addressing the pressing social needs of ordinary working people.

Both the government and its opponents are deeply anti-democratic. As prime minister, Thaksin was notorious for threatening opposition media and for his anti-drug campaign, during which hundreds of alleged dealers were killed by police.

While the UDD leaders are keeping the protests confined to the demand for an election, anti-government protesters are motivated by broader issues. The New York Times noted last week: “The main target of the protestors’ ire seems to be the system: the perception that the bureaucrats and the military serve the elite at the expense of the poor.” Time magazine cited one small businessman in Bangkok as saying: “I don’t even like Thaksin. It’s not about one person. It’s about how the government doesn’t care about people who aren’t rich.”

The UDD leadership is just as concerned as the government that protesters do not begin to voice their own social demands and take more militant action. Last April, large anti-government protests in Bangkok boiled over into violent clashes with the police and military in which several people were killed. The Bangkok Post noted last week that “quite a few” pro-Thaksin politicians were concerned at the economic impact of the ongoing rallies and “how it will all end”, leading to a desire “to wrap up the protest as soon as possible”. Source

March 13 2010: A million Thaksin supporters across Thailand head for Bangkok protest

April 8 2010: Thai protesters defy emergency, opposition media blocked

Thai protesters scuffled with riot police outside a satellite broadcaster on Thursday after the government blocked opposition websites and TV channels on the second day of a state of emergency to quell mass protests.

The protesters see the urbane, British-born, Oxford-educated Abhisit as a front man for an unelected elite and military intervening in politics with impunity.

Internal Security Act. November 2007

Thailand’s revised Internal Security Act October 2007

In view of the protests the Internal Security Act has been extended.

Video April 8 2010

A Small bit of History.

The  United States used Thailand as a major point to wage war in Vietnam.
The Thai Government is till backed by the US.
I guess the people in Thailand are also fed up with corruption as the people in Kyrgustan are.

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Published in: on April 8, 2010 at 11:02 pm  Comments Off on Thailand protesters defy government decree  
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