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Thai Soldiers Get Royal Nod to Open Fire on Crowd

Posted by terres on April 13, 2009

Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand, Gives the Nod to Thai Army to Open Fire on Crowd

For essential  background information on this story see:

A protester facing a line of government troops in Bangkok on Monday. Image: Vincent YU/AP. Image may be subject to copyright.

Hospitals reported more than 70 people were injured, many from tear gas. Four of the casualties had gunshot wounds, including two civilians and two soldiers, according to a hospital official quoted by the Reuters news agency. Photo: Narong Sangnak/European Pressphoto Agency. Image may be subject to copyright.
The following report was published by BBC on Monday, 13 April 2009 06:27 UK

Thai soldiers open fire on crowd

To view news videos click here: Violent clashes in Thailand

Thai soldiers have opened fire on a crowd of anti-government protesters in the centre of the capital, Bangkok, who fled before the bullets.

A BBC correspondent witnessed the lunchtime attack which came after a night of tension as troops cleared demonstrators blocking a road junction.

At least 70 people were injured in the earlier violence close to the landmark Victory Monument.

Tear gas and bullets were fired as stones and petrol bombs were thrown.

The government will keep working to return peace and order to the country
Abhisit Vejjajiva
Thai prime minister

The military suddenly moved forward with a water cannon and a bus was set on fire, the BBC’s Alastair Leithead reports.

Then the troops suddenly charged, opening fire with live rounds in the direction of the protesters.

Monday is the start of a three-day holiday for the Thai New Year and many people have already left the capital for the provinces.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva earlier declared a state of emergency after the protesters, who mostly back ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra, stopped a major Asian summit in Pattaya.

A leader of the pro-Thaksin party, the United Front for Democracy, accused the army of using excessive force against the protesters.

“We will stand firm indefinitely,” Jakrapob Penkair told BBC World Service.

‘Hundreds of rounds’

Witnesses told the Associated Press news agency that troops had advanced against the protesters at the the Din Daeng intersection between 0400 and 0500 (2100 and 2200 GMT Sunday).

Alastair Leithead in Bangkok
Latest from Alastair Leithead on the streets of Bangkok
The military suddenly moved forward with a water cannon and a bus was set on fire. And then they suddenly charged, opening fire with live rounds in the direction of the protesters.We watched carefully. Some were firing high, some were firing into the crowd. They scattered the red-shirted protesters down the street.A bus was reversed into the military. The bus driver was injured as they opened fire. We don’t know what condition he is in at the moment but the situation has suddenly gone very, very serious, very confrontational, and I would be surprised if people haven’t been injured, such was the extent and the concentration of the fire and the angles at which the rifle were pointed.

“The soldiers fired hundreds of rounds from their M-16 automatic rifles as they advanced, though it was unclear whether they were firing at, or over, the protesters,” the agency says.

A Bangkok hospital doctor told the BBC News website that 74 people had been brought into hospital, most of them suffering abrasions but some with gunshot wounds.

An army spokesman, Col Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, said about 400 soldiers had moved against some 300 protesters.

He accused protesters of driving a car at the soldiers and said troops had first fired into the air in response to tear gas and smoke bombs thrown at them by protesters.

The soldiers then fired live rounds, he said.

“We will start with soft measures and proceed to harder ones,” the army spokesman told AFP news agency.

“We will avoid loss of life as instructed by the government.”

Call for calm

Earlier on Sunday, protesters broke into the interior ministry and at one point attacked a car they thought was carrying Prime Minister Abhisit. He was not inside.

The whole capital is a series of riots
Paulo, Bangkok

They blocked a number of busy road junctions and at least one railway, and took over buses and two armoured vehicles.

The collapse of the summit was a huge embarrassment to Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva and he has vowed to restore order, says the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok.

He appeared on TV just before midnight, called on the public not to panic and to co-operate to end the crisis.

“In the next three to four days, the government will keep working to return peace and order to the country,” he said.

The camera panned to the commanders of the army, navy, air force and deputy police chief as he said:

“I can confirm that the government and security agencies are still unified.”

‘Time for revolution’

Mr Thaksin, who addresses his supporters by telephone from self-imposed exile abroad, called for a “revolution” on Sunday.

A man hands flowers to soldiers confronting protesters in Bangkok, 13 April

All sides are urging against violence

“Now that they have tanks on the streets, it is time for the people to come out in revolution,” he said in a message shown on giant screens near the prime minister’s office.

“And when it is necessary, I will come back to the country.”

Under the state of emergency, gatherings of more than five people can be banned, media reports can be censored and the army can be deployed to help police maintain order.

Last year, the government imposed a state of emergency on several occasions but the army refused to enact the measures.

That crisis eventually led to Mr Abhisit’s government taking over from allies of Mr Thaksin.

Our correspondent in Bangkok says the problem for Mr Abhisit is that he rode to power on the back of protests that were just as illegal, and may look hypocritical if he only goes after the red-shirted protesters who embarrassed him. Copyright BBC.

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One Response to “Thai Soldiers Get Royal Nod to Open Fire on Crowd”

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