Crisis deepens as 10 killed in bloody Bangkok clashes
Published 15/05/2010 | 05:00
Ten people were killed and more than 125 injured in Bangkok yesterday as anti-government street demonstrations escalated into close combat between protesters and the army.
Shooting between police and army personnel was also reported, as policemen joined the side of the demonstrators.
The emergence of divided loyalties among the security services transformed the stand-off with Thailand's Red Shirt opposition into a crisis for the government.
The Red Shirts resisted Thai army efforts to impose a cordon as hundreds more joined the demonstration.
The increase in violence followed the shooting on Thursday night of Major General Khattiya Sawasdipol, a renegade military officer who oversaw the building of fortified opposition encampments in central Bangkok. He was in intensive care as doctors operated on a gunshot wound to his head. A hospital spokesman said his chances of survival were "low". The government denied that an army sniper shot him.
Panitan Wattanayagorn, a government spokesman, said troops had been authorised to fire live ammunition at "terrorists" but only under strict rules of engagement which stipulated that there must be a direct threat to life.
Among those wounded were two Thai journalists and a Canadian reporter. The reporter was named as Nelson Rand who was shot three times. Irish publishers Maverick House published Mr Rand's book, 'Conflict: Journeys Through War and Terror in Southeast Asia', last year, after having worked with him since 2007 through the company's Bangkok office. Last night, a spokeswoman for the publishers' said he was "out of danger".
Clouds of black smoke filled the streets as explosions and gunfire raged in the area of upmarket hotels and shopping centres where violence has been concentrated. It was also spreading across the main junctions of the central business district, Ratchaprasong.
Grenade attacks caused damage at a shopping centre and a railway station. Mr Panitan said the military would step up its offensive in the days ahead. The latest deaths brought the numbers killed since March to 35, with hundreds more injured. The Red Shirts have demanded the resignation of Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Eton-educated prime minister, and early elections.
Mr Abhisit was installed with the backing of key advisers of the royal household, who are thought to have been behind a coup that deposed Thaksin Shinawatra, the populist prime minister, in 2006. Observers believe many police officers are openly sympathetic to Mr Thaksin, a former policeman.
Troops opened fire on the protesters in the increasingly violent clashes which threatened to plunge the country into chaos. As night fell, explosions and the sound of gunfire rattled around the central business district. (© Daily Telegraph, London)