Sunday, April 11, 2010

Violence Erupts in Thai Streets

Antigovernment protesters repulsed an attempt by the military to disperse them on Saturday in fierce running battles filled with tear gas, gunfire and explosions in the worst political violence in nearly 20 years.

With both sides armed and aggressive, 18 people were reported dead and more than 650 wounded. The violence opened the door to continuing tension after more than three years of turmoil that has included a military coup, months of protests and the closing of Bangkok’s airports.

After a month of nonviolent tolerance, the failure of the government to end the latest protests by force left it with few options. Protest leaders, standing on a makeshift stage after the military withdrew, rejected a government plea for talks and repeated their demand that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva step down and call a new election.

Looking grim during a midnight television address, Mr. Abhisit said he would seek to restore order but did not respond to the protesters’ demands.

“The situation of the last two or three days gave me no choice,” he said, referring to his decision to use force. “I had to enforce the law. If the government had done nothing, it would have shown its weakness.”

To read more:

Protesters and Police Clash in Bangkok, Photo Slide show:

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