Monday, April 12, 2010

After Clashes, Thai Standoff Deepens

A political standoff intensified Sunday after the worst civil violence in nearly 20 years, with protesters standing their ground on the streets of Bangkok and the government ignoring their demand to step down and call new elections.

The sudden eruption of violence, in which 21 people were killed and nearly 900 wounded, stunned Thailand after nearly a month of protests in which both sides were scrupulously nonviolent.

Both had feared that if violence was unleashed, it would grow uncontrollable. To halt any such momentum, it was the government side that pulled back on Saturday night. The protesters remained standing.

They continued to occupy an area in the heart of old Bangkok as well as an intersection in its shiniest, most modern quarter where their amplified chants and speeches echoed off the walls of shopping malls and five-star hotels.

The aggressiveness of the antigovernment forces, some among them using firearms and explosives, raised the possibility that provocateurs — the “third force” bent on destabilizing the government that some analysts had feared — had escalated the violence.

Talk of a possible coup resurfaced in Bangkok as it tends to do at times of tension in a country where the military has seized power by force 18 times over the past 80 years.

However the impasse plays out, it is widely believed here that after the failure of both soft and hard approaches, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will not last much longer in office.

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Video on Clashes in Bangkok:

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