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Not all reds are terrorists

Posted by hasekamp on 31 May 2010 at 13:50 PM
The government needed to use force against some members of the anti-government rally, but it had never declared that every red-shirt protester is a terrorist, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said during the censure debate in parliament on Monday. Nor had the government ever used any force to clear protesters from the main rally venue at Ratchaprasong intersection, he said. "Some people are trying to compare the crackdown on the red-shirt rally on May 19 with the October 1976 Massacre or Black May 1992 or even the political violence in October 2008. "I admit that force was used during the crackdown to solve people's troubles but the government has never stated that all red-shirt are terrorists or a group of people who want to topple the monarchy," Mr Abhisit said. He said the decisions made by the government followed international standards. The court ruled that the gathering violated the constitution. "The Civil Court told us [the government] we could disperse the protest if necessary and we were always trying to explain the situation to the people," he said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Free trip to the airport

Posted by hasekamp on 31 May 2010 at 13:47 PM
Members of the public will be able to take a test ride on the Airport Rail Link train from now until Friday night, State Railway of Thailand governor Yutthana Thapcharoen said on Monday. The test ride will run from Phaya Thai station to Suvarnabhumi airport and there will be no stops along the way. The trains will leave every 20 minutes. The trip will take about 25 minutes. The test runs began today and will continue until Friday, from 7 to 10am, and from 4 to 7pm. Anyone interested can call 1690, 02-222-0175 and 02-220-2468 or visit www.railway.co.th. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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PM: Thailand is back to normal

Posted by hasekamp on 30 May 2010 at 12:10 PM
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Sunday the country appeared to be back to 'normal' after the lifting of a curfew imposed in the wake of deadly anti-government protests. The premier cancelled the curfew Saturday but said emergency rule was still necessary after two months of mass rallies by the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) demonstrators that paralysed the capital and left almost 90 people dead. "The situation last night was normal. Authorities will keep an eye though, then we'll consider lifting the state of emergency," Mr Abhisit said in his weekly television address. The UDD's street rallies, broken up on May 19 in an army crackdown on their encampment in Bangkok's Ratchaprasong commercial district, sparked outbreaks of violence that left 88 people dead, mostly civilians, and nearly 1,900 injured. In an address Saturday to foreign diplomats, Mr Abhisit said Thailand needed to "rebuild the social and economic compact between people and the government," but defended the crackdown. "I can say that when we took that Ratchaprasong intersection, we took Bangkok back for the people," Abhisit said in the speech, which was broadcast on Sunday. "No matter what their political views may be, I'm still confident that the majority of our people are peaceful and moderate and they were stunned and dismayed" by recent events, he said. The premier said he was confident the situation could be resolved through the democratic process, despite a history that has seen 18 actual or attempted coups in Thailand since 1932. Mr Abhisit had proposed November 14 polls in a bid to end the rally, but he shelved the plan because demonstrators refused to disperse. "Clearly given the way things have turned out over the last couple of weeks, the date of November 14 would now look very unlikely," he said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Demolition Central World uncertain

Posted by hasekamp on 27 May 2010 at 19:17 PM
Central World, Centre One and Siam movie theatre buildings may not have to be demolished, according to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, which yesterday backtracked on a statement on Monday. Deputy Bangkok governor Phornthep Techapaiboon said the BMA had merely conducting an initial inspection of burntout buildings set on fire by redshirt rioters and categorised which of 28 buildings in the city may need to be demolished if structural damage was beyond repair. He did not explain why a BMA spokesman said a day before that the three buildings were to be demolished without conditions. (Source: The Nation)


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Foreigners arrested

Posted by hasekamp on 27 May 2010 at 19:14 PM
A Briton and an Australian have been arrested for joining the red shirt protests, officials said yesterday. The Australian, Conor David Purcell, 30, and the Briton, Jeff Savage, 49, were arrested and charged with breaching the emergency law, an offence which carries up to two years imprisonment, police said. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the pair were arrested for violating the state of emergency "and for their roles on stage during the rally". "For the Australian man it's not yet clear, but in the case of the Briton he's involved with the (red shirt) movement in Pattaya," Abhisit said. He said officials would also probe other allegations against the men. (Source: The Nation)


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Help for street vendors and others

Posted by hasekamp on 25 May 2010 at 11:27 AM
Individual vendors affected by the protest will each receive a Bt50,000 grant from the government, excluding extra assistance from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday. State-owned banks like the Government Savings Bank and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand will provide loans to small operators. Shopping space will be provided to those having businesses in fire-damaged areas. The government will also open up for public donations to help those who have lost their jobs, and promises incentives to employers managing to maintain their workforce despite financial troubles. (Source: The Nation)


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Help for damaged houses

Posted by hasekamp on 25 May 2010 at 11:23 AM
Two mobile repair teams have been set at work to help fix up houses damaged in the riots last week, labour permanent secretary Somchai Phumrat said on Tuesday. It was a joint poject by the Labour Ministry and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. Mr Somchai said the two teams comprise more than 100 electricians, builders and plumbers from skill development centres in Chon Buri, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan and Suphan Buri provinces. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Curfew extended to Friday

Posted by hasekamp on 25 May 2010 at 11:21 AM
The cabinet agreed to extend the curfew in Bangkok and 23 other provinces to Friday night, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said after the cabinet meeting on Tuesday. The curfew will be in force between midnight and 4am, he said. Secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC) Thawil Pliensri said the prime minister and cabinet ministers understand that the curfew has caused inconvenience to the public, so they decided not to extend it for seven more days as suggested by the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES). (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thaksin now wanted for terrorism

Posted by hasekamp on 25 May 2010 at 11:19 AM
The Criminal Court on Tuesday approved the Department of Special Investigation's request for an arrest warrant for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on terrorism charges. The court approved the warrant after examining testimony given by DSI chief Tharit Pengdit, his deputy Pol Col Narat Savetanant and Pol Lt-Col Thawal Mangkhang, the DSI chief investigator, on Monday. The three presented the court with additional documents and clips of Thaksin speaking from abroad via video link to red-shirt rallies. The court examination on Monday was held in camera. No reporters were allowed in the courtroom. The government earlier asked several countries, including the United Arab Emirates where Thaksin has stayed in Dubai, to send him to back Thailand to answer to a two-year jail sentence given by the Supreme Court in the Ratchadapisek land case, but to no avail. Thaksin was lately reported to have be sighted in many countries, the latest being France where he was seen in Cannes during the film festival. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Phuket tourists chose Bali instead

Posted by hasekamp on 24 May 2010 at 12:52 PM
The long-running political crisis in Thailand appears to have had a positive spin-off for Bali\92s tourism industry, with more foreign tourists than usual visiting the Indonesian island instead of Thai destinations such as Phuket. The Jakarta Globe reports that Ida Bagus Subhiksu, head of the Bali Tourism Office, has announced that the number of foreign tourists visiting the island in the first quarter of the year had reached 551,186, up 18.49 percent compared to the same period last year. Subhiksu said Australians were making up the bulk of tourists opting for the Indonesian island instead of Phuket or other Thai resorts, followed by tourists from several European countries, particularly France and the Netherlands. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Massive clean-up!

Posted by hasekamp on 24 May 2010 at 12:49 PM
Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra Sunday led more than 2,000 workers and volunteers in a major operation to tidy up many locations which saw conflict between protesters and troops before and during the crackdown. They helped clear debris from many sites hit hard by the marathon red-shirts protest. We admire the Thais for this spontaneous massive action. A photo slide show can bee seen on The site of The Nation. (Source: The Nation)


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Cannes prize for Thai film director

Posted by hasekamp on 24 May 2010 at 12:40 PM
Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul won the Palme d'Or top prize at the Cannes film festival Sunday for a surreal reincarnation tale, Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives). Filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul made history Sunday night when his film won the Palme d\92Or at the 63rd Festival de Cannes -- the first Thai and first Southeast Asian film to win the world\92s most prestigious film award. The nine-member jury led by Tim Burton handed the top prize to Loong Boonmee Raluek Chat (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives) amid the loud cheers of international journalists who rooted for this formidable dark horse from Thailand. Uncle Boonmee, the most accessible of Apichatpong\92s films, shows the possible co-existence between humans, ghosts, spirits and animals. In the story about a Northeastern beekeeper who\92s dying from kidney disease and who\92s visited by the spirit of his dead wife, the film also alludes to the troubled history of the Northeast, the communist fighting, paralleled space and time, the reincarnation of body and soul, as well as provides a meta-thesis on the death and rebirth of cinema through a subtly comical and mystical narrative. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Bangkok comes back to normal

Posted by hasekamp on 24 May 2010 at 12:37 PM
Bangkok whirred back into life on Monday after last week's deadly violence, as businesses and schools reopened and citizens returned to streets cleared of debris left by arson and looting. Thoroughfares which for six weeks had been occupied by anti-government protesters led by the red-shrit United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), who established a fortified encampment in the top shopping district, were finally open to traffic. Office workers returned to their jobs, children went to school and retailers rolled back shutters after the worst civil unrest in recent memory, which since mid-March has left 88 dead and nearly 1,900 injured. The red-shirt demonstrators disbanded last Wednesday in the face of a crushing military offensive that forced their leaders to surrender. Enraged radicals within the movement went on a rampage of looting and arson that left 36 major buildings ablaze including the stock exchange and Thailand's biggest mall, CentralWorld, which now stands in ruins. Downtown Bangkok was scrubbed clean over the weekend in a frenzied operation involving thousands of city workers wielding brooms and power houses, as well as enthusiastic volunteers including foreigners. The embassies of Australia and Japan, located near the disbanded UDD encampment, reopened while the United States said it would resume full services at its mission on Tuesday. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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How to revive tourism?

Posted by hasekamp on 22 May 2010 at 17:45 PM
The Thai government is preparing a tourism revival promotion campaign, focusing first on China, Hong Kong, Japan and Asean as it tries to restore confidence after a week of mayhem in Bangkok. Similar campaigns were launched, with success, after the 2004 tsunami in the South, and following the red shirts' riots in Bangkok during Songkran of last year. China, Hong Kong and Asean are the country's major sources of low-season visitors but they are also highly sensitive about safety and security, said Surapol Svetasreni, the Tourism Authority of Thailand governor. He said that travel wholesalers and tour operators from China, Hong Kong and Japan were willing to offer tour packages to Thailand as soon as their government lifts their travel advisories for Thailand. However, he admitted that it would not easy to convince foreign tourists to come back in the short term, given the extensive damage to the Ratchaprasong and Pratunam areas, where tourists like to shop.
Four more countries: Switzerland, Brazil, the UK and Australia, raised their travel advisories on Thursday to the highest level. Similar alerts were issued earlier by 14 other countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Spain, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan, Germany, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Israel, Belgium and New Zealand. A tourism industry executive said the government was increasingly concerned over a sharp drop in tourism revenue this year, as private investment is unlikely to be a prime driver to stimulate the economy this year as earlier projected. Tourism revenue accounts for about 7-8% of gross domestic products. (Source: The Bangkok post)


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Seven districts declared disaster zones

Posted by hasekamp on 21 May 2010 at 17:43 PM
Bangkok authority will declare as disaster zones the seven districts in Bangkok that were burnt and destroyed by riots broken out by angry red shirts protesters.The districts are Klong Toey, Bang Rak, Sathorn, Rathevi, Din Daeng, Pathumwan and Wattana. Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has assigned Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to support the rescue center of Center for the Restoration of Emergency Situation. Therefore he would sign today an order to declare the seven districts as disaster zone from riots. The BMA will set up a rescue center to receive complaints from people who are affected by the riots and chaos in Bangkok. Referring to renovations of areas damaged by the riots, the governor said the authority would wait for green light from CRES before entering the areas for fear of safety. Meanwhile Jumpol Sampaopon, director of BMA's Public Works office, said that his office has surveyed the buildings burned during the riots and categorised them into three groups: - totally destroyed beyond repair, - repairable with with high engineering technology; - slightly damaged. (Source: The Nation)


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How to get things back to normal?

Posted by hasekamp on 21 May 2010 at 17:37 PM
The Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) is setting up a special task force to ensure security for the people of Bangkok in the wake of Wednesday's political violence, and a centre to assist and rehabilitate businesses affected by the unrest, acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said in a televised statement on Friday. Authorities also announced that some restrictions under emergency law would be softened to ease public inconvenience, and that suspended public transport services would resume soon. Mr Panitan said the task force comprises police, members of the three armed forces, civilians and disaster relief officials of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. Their task is to return peace and order to communities in Bangkok. The task force was being set up today. Units would then patrol the various communities to prevent unrest, acts of sabotage and other unlawful activities. The CRES had sufficient information and evidence to properly inform the Thai people as well as diplomats and foreigners of what had happened during the past week, he said. Suvarnabhumi airport authorities announced all flights were now operating to schedule and that passengers could show IDs and tickets at security checkpoints during curfew hours and would be allowed through. People accompanying passengers to the airport would be given papers to allow them to return home.(Source: The Bangkok post)


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The sad destiny of Central World

Posted by hasekamp on 21 May 2010 at 17:33 PM
The rear section of CentralWorld mall could possibly be rebuilt in six months, but the rest will take a lot longer, a Central Pattana Plc executive member said on Friday. CentralWorld mall, the second-biggest retail complex in Southeast Asia, suffered massive damage due to arson on Wednesday when troops dislodged protesters from Ratchoprasong intersection, which they had occupied since April 3. The fire raged out of control because authorities had cut off electricity and water supplies to the Ratchaprasong area. This hindered firefighters and disabled the mall's sprinkler system. "We have industrial all risks insurance of 13 billion baht and another US$100 million for riot and terrorism," said chief financial officer Naris Cheyklin. "Zen was badly hit but the back bit hasn't been affected that much and can be renovated. The cost of rebuilding and renovating everything shouldn't reach 10 billion baht, within the insurance limits." CPN invested 26 billion baht to open the store in 2006, aiming to draw 150,000 shoppers per day. About 5,000 people worked there in at least 500 shops. Zen has seven floors totalling 50,000 square metres, topped by 13 floors of Zen World with another 30,000 sq m. It sold clothes and other goods targeted at younger customers, tourists and affluent Thais. The store expected to lose 1.35 billion baht in sales if it has to close for renovations for at least six months. Zen had targeted sales of 2.7 billion baht this year. CPN closed 12 of its 15 stores in Bangkok and the surrounding area on Thursday because of the security situation, but said all of them opened today except for those in the Silom and Chidlom areas. Its store in Chiang Mai, which also experienced public disorder on Wednesday, was also closed. Delaying the planned temporary closure for renovation of another flagship department store on Lat Phrao "could be an option'' to compensate for lost revenue, said Mr Naris. (Source: the Bangkok Post)


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Banks reopen on Friday. Tourism drops

Posted by hasekamp on 20 May 2010 at 11:20 AM
Banks nationwide can be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Bank of Thailand (BOT) assistant governor Sorasit Soontornkes said on Thursday. Mr Sorasit said the central bank had received many complaints from the public after it announced that all commercial banks and financial institutions will remain closed this weekend due to the continuing political unrest in Bangkok and other provinces. To ease people's financial difficulties, all banks, especially the ones in department stores, can open from Friday to Sunday without asking for the BOT's permission.
Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) president Kongkrit Hiranyakit said the tourism sector could lose about 120 billion baht in revenue due to the prolonged anti-government rally of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), which ended on Wednesday. \93The political turmoil will drive away foreign tourists. The number of foreign arrivals this year is expected to drop by 10 per cent to between 12.7 million and 14.1 million,\94 Mr Kongkrit said. He said the number of foreign tourists was expected to be down by 20 per cent in the second and third quarters of the year, bringing projected revenue down from 600 billion baht to only 480 billion baht this year. The tourism sector lost a total of 100 billion baht revenue last year, caused by the seizure of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports by the yellow-shirt People\92s Alliance for Democracy in late 2008. Thai Hotel Association Prakij Chinamornpong said the association will call a meeting of its members next Tuesday to assess damage caused by the red-shirt rally. The executive will also brief members on the five measures to assist hotel operators recover from the affects of the political turmoil that the association will propose to the government. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Death toll now 68 since April 10

Posted by hasekamp on 19 May 2010 at 17:41 PM
Sixty-eight people have been killed in clashes between soldiers and red-shirt protesters since April 10, with 37 of them having been killed in the latest sparring near the Rajprasong rally site, Erawan Emergency Medical Centre's director, Phetpong Kamjornkitjakarn, said yesterday. He added that 296 people have been injured from last Friday until yesterday, with 14 of them in intensive care units. One of the foreigners injured and unidentified thus far is said to be a reporter from overseas. He is being treated at Bumrungrad Hospital. (Source: The Nation)


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Troops smash barricades, red-shirts surrender

Posted by hasekamp on 19 May 2010 at 9:08 AM
The Thai news sites are very difficult to reach at the moment. The news in short is that Thai troops have entered the barricaded area with armed vehicles and smashed the barricades. Several people weer killed an wounded, among whom foreign and Thai journalists.
On order to prevent further bloodshed according to recent radio messages red-shirt leaders have surrendered. (Read - as far as possible - in The Bangkok Post, The Nation and the Thai News Agency site)


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Economy hit hard

Posted by hasekamp on 18 May 2010 at 15:17 PM
The total economic loss incurred so far because of the continuing political violence is between 53 billion and 230 billion baht, according to the Kasikorn Research Centre's latest forecast. The leading think tank said Thailand's economy could enjoy a 6.2 per cent growth this year if there were no negative factors from politics. Otherwise, GDP could fall by 0.5 to 2.3 per cent, or 53 billion to 230 billion baht. The KRC said the continuing political bloodshed since April 10 had halted the previously strong recovery, The economy in the second quarter of this year had contracted for the first time since the second quarter of 2009.
The tourism sector took the heaviest hit and could lose up to 80 billion baht because at least 47 countries had warned their people about the security situation in Thailand. Other economic sectors would suffer if the political stand-off was further prolonged, the KRC said. Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silpa-archa said the intensifying political violence had pounded the country's tourism industry, with arrivals down by about one third. He said 19 countries had warned their people to avoid visiting Thailand at this time. "The number of tourists has dropped considerably," the minister said. "The government was hoping that tourism in the South would see a boost but it is now more difficult as foreigners think that the unrest is occurring nationwide." (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Very little progress

Posted by hasekamp on 18 May 2010 at 15:13 PM
Red-shirts will not disperse from the rally site until troops are withdrawn, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leader Jatuporn Prompan said on Tuesday evening. Soldiers have to pull back first because protesters are not ready to be killed by troops, he said. He spoke after PM's Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey announced in a televised statement that negotiations with the UDD will not happen until it ends its rally. Meanwhile the Thai government has proclaimed 19-21 May as public holidays for Bangkok. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Death toll so far

Posted by hasekamp on 17 May 2010 at 14:21 PM
The numbers of casualties from the clashes between government forces and red shirts of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship between May 14-17 are now 35 killed and 252 injured, according to the Emegency Medical Centre or Erawan Centre. The death toll went up because one of the injured, Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, better known as Seh Daeng, died on Monday morning. Of the 242 injured, there are six foreigners. They comprise one each from Canana, Poland, Burma, Liberia, Italy and New Zealand. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Shinawatras leave Thailand

Posted by hasekamp on 16 May 2010 at 23:30 PM
Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra, ex-wife of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and her son and daughter, Panthongtae and Pinthongtha Shinawatra, left for Singapore on May 14, reports said. Reports said another daughter, Paethongtan, was in a European country. She also left Bangkok on Friday. It was also reported that the chairman of the opposition Puea Thai Party, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh had left for Khun Ming, China, on May 14. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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UDD calls for stopping force

Posted by hasekamp on 16 May 2010 at 23:25 PM
An urgent meeting of core leaders of the United front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) has passed a resolution to call on the government to immediately stop using force against red-shirt protesters, UDD co-leader Natthawut Saikua said. \93The call is for preventing unarmed red-shirts from being killed or injured\94, Mr Natthawut said in a press conference on Sunday evening. He said the UDD also called on the United Nation Organisation to mediate peace talks between the government and the red-shits. \93If the UN steps in, UDD is ready to enter peace talk process in order to rapidly end the ongoing violent confrontation and political crisis\94, he said. But if the government uses force to crackdown on the protesters, UDD will not give in and will continue rallying.
Meanwhile the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation announced on the TV pool that the government has authorised May 17 and 18 to be official holidays in Bangkok. CRES spokeman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd said that the holiday annoucement is to to facilitate the government's attempt to deal with the current situation.(Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Third day of street fights

Posted by hasekamp on 15 May 2010 at 12:45 PM
Clashes between troops and protesters continued in Bangkok on Saturday as authorities tried to contain red-shirts around the Ratchaprasong rally site and prevent food supplies entering the area. The Erawan emergency unit reported on Saturday morning that street fights have killed 16 people and wounded 141 since Thursday, when authorities tried to seal off the protest site. Gunfire and explosions were heard at several locations including the Bon Kai area, Din Daeng intersection, Ratchaprarop Road and Silom Road throughout the day, as red-shirt protesters set a garbage truck, telephone booths and other public property on fire. The army has declared the Ratchaprarop area a "live-firezone" and prohibited the general public from entering the area due to intensifying clashes between troops and red-shirts. "The current situation is almost full civil war," said Jatuporn Prompan, a key leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). "I am not sure how this conflict will end."
Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayakorn said on national television before noon that the government's Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) will continue its operation to reclaim Bangkok's Ratchaprasong commercial district from the protesters. "The CRES can still bring the situation under control," Mr Panitan said. "Members of the public and journalists, however, should avoid going to areas where there are clashes between protesters and soldiers." He said there were about 6,000 protesters remaining at the protest venue. Numerous M-79 grenades were fired at security forces in various areas on the fringes of the protest site overnight, he said.
MrJatuporn said the protesters vowed to continue to fight until until Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolves the lower House and resigns. The red-shirt co-leader also said that there would be no more talks between the UDD and the government. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thaksin calls for talks

Posted by hasekamp on 14 May 2010 at 12:35 PM
Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has issued a statement calling for the government to hold talks with the protesters to peacefully resolve the political conflict and explore ways of bring about true reconciliation. Thaksin's statement was read by his aide and former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama. In the statement, Thaksin said the violence on Thursday night show that the government had ordered soldiers, police and snipers to break up the red-shirt protest without mercy, causing death and injuries. This happened even though the governement could easily avoid losses if Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban surrendered to police and to face charges for ordering the April 10 crackdown, the statement said.
"The country still has a way out. It depends on the prime minister deciding which option to take - between peace and use of force, between his political position and lives of innocent Thai people. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Second day of live rounds firing

Posted by hasekamp on 14 May 2010 at 12:32 PM
Troops opened fire Friday in a tense standoff with protesters in the capital, where the army vowed to clear an area after clashes left one dead and a renegade general fighting for his life. A succession of gunshots that sent residents fleeing in panic were heard close to the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, which is popular with tourists. Protesters set fire to an empty police bus and vandalised army vehicles and a fire truck with a water cannon. Troops were seen firing into nearby Lumpini Park, close to the anti-government red shirts' sprawling encampment, which has been fortified with razor wire, truck tires and sharpened bamboo poles. It was not clear if the troops were firing live ammunition, but the army has warned it would use lethal force against "terrorist elements". After troops fired tear gas at the protesters at Witthayu intersection, protesters responded by burning a police truck and tires outside the night bazaar, causing thick, black smoke. A line of about 100 soldiers carrying assault rifles was seen near the park, an AFP reporter said. Three red shirts were seen being detained by the security forces. Army spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd said there were about 2,000 red shirt protesters in that area and they had 'intimidated authorities with weapons' so an order was given Friday morning to disperse them. Local media reported that four people were wounded during the clashes, but a Bangkok Post photographer said he had seen at least 10 people injured. Matichon newspaper reported on its website that its cameraman was shot in the leg during the clashes. France 24 television channel reported that its foreign journalist was shot in the leg during the clashes. Around the wider protest area, which extends for several square kilometres, soldiers blocked roads and set up checkpoints to seal off the area. Skytrain services were shutdown in the protest area, with trains running shuttle services between outlying stations. The management announced it would suspend services at 4pm Friday. The subway service was also partially shut down, with trains operating only between Rama 9 station and Bang Sue. Security forces shut down both sides of Rama IV road from Sala Daeng to Klong Toey after clashes between anti-government protesters and soldiers around noon. "The total seal-off measure was implemented yesterday evening," said Col Sansern. Electricity had been cut off in the area. "Today we will meet to assess the effectiveness of these measures," he said. The army warned on Thursday it would deploy snipers around the reds' protest site and use armoured vehicles to prevent more demonstrators joining thousands who have turned a large area of central Bangkok into occupied territory for two months, crippling an upscale retail district. Today's action followed the shooting early Thursday night of rogue army officer Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, or Seh Daeng, a hardline red shirt supporter accused of trying to stymie government efforts to reconcile with the protesters. He was unconscious in the intensive care unit of Vahira hospital with a "quite low" chance of survival from a head wound, said Chaiwan Charoenchokethavee, the hospital director. Another demonstrator died after being shot in the head in clashes with security forces Thursday night. Eleven others were wounded, the Medical Service said. Core members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) had publicly distanced themselves from Khattiya, known by his followers as Seh Daeng, but after his shooting one top protester vowed there would be no surrender. "If you think the shooting of Seh Daeng will scare leaders and make them not dare to take the stage, you are wrong," one of the protest leaders and an opposition Puea Thai Party MP, Jatuporn Prompan, said at the rally site. "We will not leave here as losers." The army denied involvement in the shooting as protesters dug in. Black-clad guards at entrances to the sprawling protest site in central Bangkok were armed with slingshots and arrows. They sealed access at one main entrance and reinforced another position with sandbags. Some Humvees were on the street but no armoured vehicles were seen as troops set up checkpoints. The fresh violence came after Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva shelved a plan to hold early elections in November and hopes faded for a resolution to the crippling political crisis.
Bracing for further possible unrest, the government on Thursday extended a state of emergency to 15 more provinces. Almost one-third of the country including Bangkok is now under emergency rule. At least 30 people have been killed and about 1,000 injured in Bangkok in a series of confrontations and attacks since the protests began; Thailand's worst political violence in almost two decades. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Troops fire tear gas

Posted by hasekamp on 14 May 2010 at 12:21 PM
After yesterday one red-shirt was killed and another was critically hurt, troops today fire tear gas at red shirts protesters near Lumpini Bazaar on Rama IV road on Friday at 12.15pm in a first step to disperse the protests. The protesters in the area captured and vandalised two military fire trucks near the bazaar on Thursday night. They ripped the cannon from its moorings and used its plastic barrel to shoot firecrackers from behind a sandbag bunker they had commandeered from soldiers. The attempt to disperse came after Emergency Operations center's spokesman said Friday the dispersal is unavoidable. Since the irregularities started, so farv31 people were killed. (Source: The Nation)


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UDD surrounded by armed troops

Posted by hasekamp on 13 May 2010 at 14:34 PM
Government forces will lay siege to the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship's (UDD) protest site at around Ratchaprasong intersection from 6pm today, Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said on Thursday. Roadblocks would be set up. Protesters would be allowed to leave the protest site, but no-one would be allowed to enter. Snipers carrying real weapons and live ammunition would move into position. However, heavy weapons such as machine guns and grenades would not be used, he said. Live ammunition would be used - fired into the sky to scare away attackers, to protect the lives of security personnel, and to shoot armed assailants. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Driving lessons for Patong tuk-tuks

Posted by hasekamp on 13 May 2010 at 14:28 PM
In hopes of boosting the image of public transport in Patong, the newly-launched Patong Taxi Federation (PTF) saw its first 80 members complete a driver\92s training course on May 8 at the Phuket Land Transport Office. The PTF, established in February this year, now has over 1,000 members from six groups and represents around 70% of all taxis, tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis and automobile rental companies in Patong. The goal of the PTF is to coordinate roles among transportation providers, establish uniform rules and clean up the negative image held by many tourists of Patong transport, Mr Preechavude said. \93We plan to fix standard prices and post them so there is no question as to the cost of our services. Before it was up to the individual driver to negotiate fares,\94 said Mr Preechavude. The PTF is also working with police to combat crime. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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UDD continues until PM steps down

Posted by hasekamp on 13 May 2010 at 14:24 PM
If Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva pulls out of his offer of a November 14 general election the red-shirts will continue rallying until he leaves office, co-leader of the United front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) Jatuporn Prompan said on Thursday afternoon. This announcement was made after an hours-long of meeting of UDD core leaders. Mr Jatuporn called on Mr Abhisit to officially and publicly state that the planned Nov 14 election has been cancelled, as the postponement of the polls was announced yesterday only by his secretary-general Korbsak Sabhavasu, not the premier himself. \93Mr Abhisit should make it clear, so the red-shirts will know to continue protesting until he steps down or is toppled,\94 he said. The UDD leader said if Mr Abhisit really cancelled the promised election day, it would show he had no real intention to bring about reconciliation. The five-point national reconciliation roadmap was proposed solely to cover over the killing of innocent people, and for revoking the reconciliation plan he pretended to publicly announce, he added. As Mr Abhisit had now ordered troops to crackdown on red-shirt protesters, whether Deputy Prime Minister and head of the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation Suthep Thaugsuban turns himself in to police or not was no longer important, Mr Jatuporn said. \93If the government uses force to disperse the red-shirts, Mr Abhisit will not be able to stay in power until Nov 14. The people will get a true democracy sooner than that day,\94 he said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Foreign embassies closed

Posted by hasekamp on 13 May 2010 at 14:20 PM
Foreign embassies in the Ratchaprasong area shut early today and some will remain closed to regular services until the political situation stablises. The US embassy visa section would be closed on Friday, but would hopefully be be able to reopen on Monday, spokesman Michael Turner said. Travel advisories and recommendations for US citizens remained unchanged. They should avoid areas of possible confrontation, Mr Turner said. The embassy would monitor the situation closely, he said. A European diplomat said his nation\92s stance and the European Union\92s remained the same. They would like to see the protesters and the government show restraint and resort to dialogue. \93It seems the government is pushing for another solution which might lead to collateral damage. We think Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra should have a direct negotiation to take the country back from the brink,\94 said the diplomat, who asked not to be named.
Travel alert for European citizens remained unchanged for the third consecutive week, that visitors should avoid non-essential travel to Bangkok and particularly into the areas of contention, he said. Diplomats were sympathetic to the government\92s dilemma to end the rally but they felt that it was futile and self-pressuring. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Government: No elections if rally continues

Posted by hasekamp on 12 May 2010 at 10:15 AM
If the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) continues to rally the election date tentatively set for Nov 14 under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's reconciliation plan may have to be deferred, acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. He said the cabinet approved the prime minister's five-point reconciliation roadmap. Mr Abhisit declared his roadmap on May 3. The UDD leadership has accepted to join the reconciliation process but is unable to agree when to end the protest rally, which started on March 12. Mr Panitan said if the rally continues the prime minister might have no choice but to postpone the general election. Mr Abhisit would re-assess the situation and inform the public of his every move, he said. If a poll date was fixed but candidates could not campaign in their constituencies it would be difficult for the election to occur. The prime minister would have to consider whether his proposal had received cooperation from all concerned, including the opposition, before making a final decision. The spokesman said the cabinet discussed a plan for implementation when the UDD announces an end to the rally, and resolved to follow the prime minister's declared roadmap. However, the cabinet also discussed an alternative plan in case the rally continues, he said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Red-shirt rally will go on

Posted by hasekamp on 12 May 2010 at 10:10 AM
Core leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) said on Wednesday they will to continue their anti-government rally despite threats by authorities to cut off water and power supplies at Ratchaprasong. Co-leader Korkaew Pikulthong said the protesters have generators so they would still have electricity. They would also tap into the water pipes supplying the UK and the US embassies. The Metropolitan Waterworks Authority had already sent the protesters a bill of 300,000 baht for water consumption at the Phan Fa bridge, he said. He did not say if it had been or would be paid. Another UDD leader Weng Tojirakarn said the UDD would not disperse until Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban reports to police and enters the judicial process to answer complaints involving the fatal April 10 clashes between security forces and protesters. "None of the red-shirts are afraid of the threat to cut water and power. We will run at soldiers with our two bare hands, even if they fire at us with assault rifles," he said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Government urges red-shirts to stop

Posted by hasekamp on 9 May 2010 at 11:16 AM
With two policemen killed and 13 persons wounded in two separate incidents late Friday and before dawn Saturday in central Bangkok, the Thai government urged anti-government protesters to end their rally as quickly as possible to prevent further bloodshed and let peace to be restored in the country, TNA reported. The latest incidents showed that a group of people did not want to see the prime minister's national reconciliation plan, proposed on Monday, to take effect and succeed, said Deputy Secretary-General to the Prime Minister Panithan Wattanayakorn. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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UDD not yet happy with roadmap

Posted by hasekamp on 9 May 2010 at 11:15 AM
The government is insincere about its proposed five-point reconciliation road map, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) core member Weng Tojirakarn said on Sunday. Mr Weng said the government was not sincere as it had not responded to the anti-government group's call for a troop withdrawal near the red-shirt rally at Bangkok's Ratchaprasong commercial area. "The UDD leaders will turn themselves to police on May 15 but their decision could change depending on the situation," the political activist said. The UDD leaders will discuss Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's road map to national reconciliation again this afternoon, he added. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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PAD is against roadmap

Posted by hasekamp on 7 May 2010 at 10:46 AM
The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on Thursday issued a statement condemning Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's roadmap for reconciliation. "We call for the prime minister to review and cancel his announcement to reconcile with the terrorist movement of the new Thai state and revoke the election date which has been fixed in advance," the statement says. The statement said the government should have instead focused on reforming the country and state welfare as well as strictly enforcing the law to guarantee safety in life and property of the people. The prime minister's announcement to hold an election on Nov 14 was destructive to the the country's reform and the justice process. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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UDD discusses roadmap

Posted by hasekamp on 7 May 2010 at 10:43 AM
Leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship will on Friday afternoon hold a meeting to mete out a resolution whether to join Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's proposed road map for reconciliation, Nathawut Saikua, a UDD leader, said. He said a conclusion might be reached this afternoon if the matter was not too complicated. "At least we should know in what direction we would go," Mr Nathawut said. The UDD secretary-general said the government had made very little progress on the reconciliation process because it still had to hold talks with many groups including the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and the multi-coloured group led by Dr Tul Sithisomwong. The UDD was interested in joining the process but still waiting for the government to clear the matter with those groups, apart from the Democrat and coalition parties, Mr Nathawut said. Weng Tojirakarn, another UDD leader, said the prime minister was required to show more sincerity by fixing an exact date for dissolving the lower house of parliament because he has the power to do so. He said he was not sure whether the election would be held on Nov 14 as proposed by Mr Abhisit because he does not have the authority to fix the election date by himself. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Coronation Day

Posted by hasekamp on 5 May 2010 at 10:54 AM
His Majesty the King has chaired a merit making to mark the Coronation Day at the Amarin Vinijchai Throne Hall in the Royal Grand Palace. He was accompanied by Her Majesty the Queen, HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and members of the royal family. The ceremony was attended by Senate Speaker Prasopsuk Boondej, House Speaker Chai Chidchob, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda, former prime ministers Banharn Silpa-archa, Gen Surayud Chulanont, Anand Panyarachun and armed forces chiefs. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Red-shirts want clearer road to elections

Posted by hasekamp on 5 May 2010 at 9:59 AM
Red shirt leaders are demanding that the prime minister set an exact date for when he will dissolve parliament as part of his national reconciliation plan before they order an end to their rally. United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship bosses Tuesday agreed to take part in the compromise plan announced by the prime minister on Monday, but they were wary in their responses. They were also dubious over the government's unity and sincerity in offering the road map. Mr Abhisit has offered to hold a general election on Nov 14 as part of the plan which comes with five conditions. But UDD leaders questioned the poll date offer, saying only the Election Commission had the authority to set an election date, not the prime minister. "We want the government to come up with a clear and definite resolution on when exactly the House will be dissolved," UDD leader Natthawut Saikua said. He said the resolution must be announced officially and agreed to by all the government coalition partners. "Once such an agreement is finalised, then we can start talking." The UDD was uncertain about the coalition partners' stance on Mr Abhisit's plan, he said. While waiting for talks on the road map, the red shirts would continue their demonstrations at Ratchaprasong intersection, he said. (Source: The Bangkok post)


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PM proposes elections

Posted by hasekamp on 4 May 2010 at 10:16 AM
Mr Abhisit said in a television appearance last night for the first time a general election would be held on Nov14 - but only if five objectives underpinning a national conciliation were achieved.
They are: the monarchy must not be used as a tool in political conflicts; the country must be reformed by tackling economic disparities and inequality; the media must refrain from reports which exacerbate social or political conflicts; an independent fact-finding panel must be appointed to review fatal incidents involving security forces and protesters; and the reconciliation process must be carried out with the cooperation of all sides.
"Today, we seek to mend political disputes stemming from many causes," the prime minister said. "The problems have accumulated over the years and deepened the divisions in society. The answer to the crisis at hand which I'd like to put forward today is that we must initiate a process of reconciliation." Mr Abhisit said the five objectives were floated after he held extensive discussions with many affected parties. The Nov 14 election would involve dissolving the House between 45 and 60 days in advance, according to the constitution. That meant the dissolution would be fixed sometime between the end of August or early September. In earlier negotiations with the red shirt core leaders, the government proposed to dissolve the House and call for a fresh election in nine months, or around December. The red shirt leaders rejected the proposal. The movement initially pressed for a dissolution within 15 days before changing it to a dissolution of the House immediately. It later relaxed the demand and demanded a dissolution within a month. A political source said prior to Mr Abhisit's announcement last night the government and the red shirt leaders had been in talks about the timing of the dissolution of the House. The red shirt leaders said an amnesty decree should be passed to exonerate protesters who had violated the law. The government said it was open to talks about establishing an amnesty for people who had violated the emergency law that prohibits political gatherings of more than five people, but it could not offer an amnesty for those who had committed criminal offenses.
UDD leader Veera Musikhapong said the reconciliation road map was "interesting" but UDD leaders wanted to hear the views of several parties such as the public, the media and the political parties. They would hold a meeting today to make a decision. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Aiport rail link suspended

Posted by hasekamp on 2 May 2010 at 13:40 PM
Thailand's Ministry of Transport has postponed its April 30 soft opening of the Airport Rail Link for safety reasons but commercial service will operate in July as scheduled, said Minister Sophon Zarum. The suspension followed the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) concern over the safety of commuters who would use the test-run Airport Rail Link service planned to take place on April 30. Mr Sophon, however, assures that the postponement will not affect its commercial service in July. When the political situation eases, the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) will test rail and safety systems in preparation to the official opening. However, the SRT offers a test ride for government officials or employees of private companies upon request in a group of 100 or 200 persons. Mr Sophon said that Airport Rail Link’s route from Phaya Thai station to Suvarnbhumi Airport station currently is in sensitive areas which need special monitoring after attacks occurred in the past week, including at explosions at BTS Skytrain’s Sala Daeng station. Consequently the ministry will postpone the soft launch and no date has been set at the moment, the minister explained. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Emergency meeting by cabinet

Posted by hasekamp on 2 May 2010 at 13:35 PM
The cabinet held an emergency meeting Sunday after a warning that its long-running standoff with anti-government protesters in Bangkok could deteriorate into an "undeclared civil war." A Thai Red Shirt anti-government protester monitors police movement from a fortified camp in the financial central district of Silom in downtown Bangkok on May 2, 2010. Thailand's cabinet was set for an emergency meeting on a long-running standoff with anti-government "Red Shirts" after a warning it could deteriorate into an "undeclared civil war." Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in his weekly television address that the meeting at a military base would focus on rules of engagement for security forces, but sought to reassure the public he had a plan to defuse the crisis. "I have already decided what steps to take, but I need to make sure it will be successful and have the least negative effect as possible," Mr Abhisit said. "I have to make sure that it will be a sustainable solution. It will take time, but there will be effective measures," he added. "After I do all of this, I will announce what I have decided to do about demands for parliament's dissolution." Red-shirt protesters led by the anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have occupied sections of Bangkok since mid-March in their bid to force snap elections, with 27 people killed and nearly 1,000 injured, in the capital's worst political violence in almost two decades. Amid the simmering tensions, top think-tank the International Crisis Group (ICG) said Thailand must consider mediation from other countries to avoid a slide into further violence, a step which Abhisit rejected. "The Thai political system has broken down and seems incapable of pulling the country back from the brink of widespread conflict," said the ICG in a report released Friday. The report suggested forming a neutral negotiation committee with help from international figures such as East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta, a Nobel laureate who recently met Mr Abhisit in Bangkok.
"Many countries are confused and ask why there is no negotiation. I talked to the premier of Timor and I listened to his advice that we need two ways to solve the problem," Mr Abhisit said in his television address. "The first is that the government must stop anyone who acts against the law. The second one is the government must not ignore the needs of the people." The demonstrations are the latest chapter in years of turmoil pitting the ruling elite against the red-shirts, who say the government came to power illegitimately in 2008. The demonstrators have faced heavy criticism after about 100 supporters raided Bangkok's Chulalongkorn hospital Thursday evening in the mistaken belief it sheltered security forces preparing a crackdown. The red-shirts claim the hospital was used in an April 22 grenade attack, during a standoff between pro- and anti-government supporters, that killed one person and wounded dozens. The government said the grenades were fired from inside the UDD's camp -- an accusation the movement has denied. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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