Thai police, protesters in violent clashes; at least one dead

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Protesters in Thailand clashed today with government police, killing at least one soldier and wounding eighteen more in what media reported as being a "very tense and intense standoff."

The violence, unusually outside of the center of Bangkok, included Thai security forces firing on protesters, apparently with both rubber bullets and live ammunition, which police had been authorized to use in self-defense. The conflict took place along a highway that a convoy of protesters was travelling along; government forces were trying to disperse the demonstrators.

Casualties of the fighting included one dead — a soldier apparently killed by friendly fire — and at least eighteen injured, including eight demonstrators. Government forces had, according to reports, fired both into the air and into the protestors from behind defenses such as razor wire and concrete pilings in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

The demonstrators have largely paralyzed the city of Bangkok for the past seven weeks in protests that have killed at least 26 people. Largely rural and urban poor, they say they will not leave until the Thai prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, resigns and new elections are held; many support former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, and consider they were deprived of their votes when he was ousted in a coup in 2006. The fighting has led to constant rumors of a military crackdown on the city.