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Thai crackdown continues; 30 dead
Bangkok, May 16 (Agencies)
Published on 16 May. 2010 11:41 PM IST
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: Thailand’s government insisted Sunday a crackdown on Red Shirt protesters will continue despite their plea for U.N-mediated talks to end four days of street clashes with troops that have killed 30 people.
A pause by the Thai military was unnecessary since troops were “not using weapons to crack down on civilians,” said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn. The government maintains it is only targeting armed “terrorists” among the demonstrators.
Panitan’s comments dashed hopes of an end to Thailand’s worst political violence in decades, which has spiraled out of control and raised concerns of sustained, widespread chaos in this nation of 65 million people. Thailand is a key U.S. ally and Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.
According to government figures, 59 people have died and more than 1,600 have been wounded since the Red Shirts began their protests in March. The toll includes 30 civilians killed and 232 injured since Thursday in fighting that has turned parts of the city known for its nightlife into an urban war zone.
A towering column of black smoke rose over the city Sunday as protesters facing off with troops set fire to tires serving as a barricade. Elsewhere, they doused a police traffic post with gasoline and torched it as sporadic gunfire rang out.
The Red Shirts have occupied a 1-square-mile (3-square-kilometer) protest zone - barricaded by tires and bamboo spikes - in one of Bangkok’s ritziest areas to push their demands for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to resign immediately, dissolve Parliament and call new elections.
Drawn mostly from the rural and urban poor, the Red Shirts say Abhisit’s coalition government came to power through manipulation of the courts and the backing of the powerful military, and that it symbolizes a national elite indifferent to the poor.
Soldiers have encircled the protest zone in a wide perimeter. Most of the fighting is taking place in the no-man’s land in between. The Red Shirt fighters have used homemade gasoline bombs, firecrackers, rocks - and in some cases guns - to attack troops positioned behind sandbag bunkers. The soldiers have responded with rubber bullets and live ammunition. Journalists have seen army snipers take aim through telescopic sights and fire to keep the attackers at bay.
With the Red Shirts’ encampment virtually sealed off by troops, the protesters are running out of food and water and other supplies.
In response, Panitan said all groups using weapons to threaten security forces must “stop their actions immediately.” Thailand is a sovereign nation and there was no need for the U.N. to get involved in internal matters, he said.
Thailand to probe Thaksin-Red Shirt links
Over 100 financial transactions linked to former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra will be investigated for possible connections to current “Red Shirt” protests, a government agency said Sunday. Financial institutions have been asked to give details on transactions from 106 bank or stock accounts since September 1, 2009, said National Security Council (NSC) secretary general Thawin Pleinsri.
Assets held by the exiled telecoms tycoon and his family as well as close aides, former politicians and Red Shirt protest leaders will be frozen if found linked to the anti-government movement, he told reporters.
People who violated the law face up to two years in jail, Thawin said. Thaksin, who was in office between 2001 and 2006, was ousted in a bloodless military coup and lives overseas to avoid a jail term for corruption.
Many of the Red Shirt protesters who have been occupying central areas in Bangkok since mid-March, seek his return to power, hailing his populist policies.
At least 29 people have been killed and over 200 wounded in Bangkok since Friday, after Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva shelved talks to hold early elections because the protesters refused to end the rally.
The latest clashes started when the army initiated a lockdown at the rally site, cutting telephone and electricity services and setting up checkpoints on roads into the area.

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