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Yesterday thousands of anti-government protestors in Bangkok were involved in violent clashes with police. The demonstrators hurled rocks, bottles and petrol bombs at riot officers as they attempted to storm government buildings in Bangkok. They were met by volleys of rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons.
Last night, on the eight day of protesting three have been left dead and one hundred and three injured. More than two thousand five hundred military personnel have been deployed to tackle the clashes, which have been so violent that MS. Yingluck has been forced to flee to a nearby compound. The protestors, wearing bandanas, gas masks and plastic bags on their heads, surrounded Government House, pulled at barbwire barricades and seized police vans.
They also besieged state television stations – demanding they broadcast the demonstrators’ views and not the government’s. The violence has prompted Thailand’s government to urge the capital’s 10million residents to stay indoors overnight. Some of Bangkok’s biggest shopping malls have also been closed. Today’s clashes mark the first time police have used force since the protests began a week ago – a risky strategy that many fear could lead to more deaths.
Until this weekend, the demonstrations had been largely peaceful. However, last night’s incident saw rival groups clash at a large pro-government rally in a stadium in northeast Bangkok – leaving three dead and dozens wounded.
Protestors are calling for the overthrow of Ms Yingluck, who they believe has abused her party’s majority to push through laws that strengthen the behind-the-scenes power of her self-exiled brother and former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra. The demonstrations have raised fears of fresh political turmoil and instability in Thailand, which is one of southeast Asia’s biggest economies. They have also posed the biggest threat to Ms Yingluck’s administration since she came to power in 2011.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban unexpectedly announced that he had met with Ms Yingluck – claiming he had told her he would accept nothing less than her resignation and a new government of an appointed council.In a defiant tone that drew cheers from his supporters, Mr Suthep said the meeting was held under the auspices of the military, which claims it is neutral in the conflict. He added that the talk had not constituted negotiations. Many anti-government protestors have dubbed today ‘victory day’ – despite failing to achieve their main goal of overthrowing Ms Yingluck’s government.
However, Mr Suthep told his followers it would take another two days for their end goal to be reached. ‘If Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra listens to the people’s voices, we will treat her like gentlemen because we all are good citizens,’ he said. Spokesmen for both the prime minister and the army have refused to comment on the alleged meeting.
However, government spokesman Teerat Ratanasevi has said Ms Yingluck is not expected to make a public statement tonight – adding that the prime minister is currently residing in a ‘safe place’. Political instability has plagued Thailand since the military ousted Ms Yingluck’s brother Thaksin in a 2006 coup.
Two years later, anti-Thaksin demonstrators occupied Bangkok’s two airports for a week after taking over the prime minister’s office for three months.And in 2010, pro-Thaksin protestors flocked to downtown Bangkok for a standoff that ended with parts of the city in flames and more than 90 dead.Any further deterioration is likely to scare away investors, as well as tourists who come to Thailand by the millions and contribute 10 percent to the $602 billion economy.
Army commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha – who said last week the army would not take sides – has urged the police not to use force. He has also called on protesters to avoid violence, according to an army spokesman. Most of the protesters are middle-class Bangkok residents who have been part of the anti-Thaksin movement for several years. Others include people brought in from the opposition Democrat Party strongholds in the southern provinces.