army called in to the shoooting spree
- From: xis2xis@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 7 Oct 2008 11:56:20 -0700 (PDT)
Thai Army Sends Troops to Help Police Keep Peace
Raw Video: Tear Gas Fired at Thai Protestors
By Tim Johnston
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, October 7, 2008; 10:38 AM
BANGKOK, Oct. 7 -- Thousands of demonstrators massed outside the Thai
parliament building to derail its opening session Tuesday morning, and
protesters said four people were severely injured when police fired
tear gas canisters in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
At least two people lost parts of their legs, and two lost parts of
their arms when they were hit by tear gas canisters or stun grenades,
the protesters said. Another 47 people suffered lesser injuries.
Police said two officers were injured when a protester fired a handgun
at police lines.
The day-long confrontation undid weeks of quiet attempts at
rapprochement by Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's government and
gave new life to fears that the differences that have paralyzed Thai
politics for much of the past two years might be beyond
The trouble started Monday night when some 8,000 protesters gathered
outside parliament, vowing to prevent the lawmakers from convening
Tuesday morning. Police moved in shortly after dawn with a volley of
tear gas canisters and stun grenades, sending the crowd running.
"They fired without warning," said Somran Rodpetch, one of the leaders
of the People's Alliance for Democracy, which is organizing the
Despite the police action, hundreds of protesters remained outside
parliament. They trapped the members of parliament who were able to
get into the building and forced Somchai to use a ladder to escape
over a fence into a neighboring royal palace. It was late afternoon by
the time police could clear a path for other lawmakers to leave.
Violence erupted again just after nightfall, when demonstrators
attempted to break through police lines. The police, who do not carry
firearms, responded with multiple rounds of tear gas, pushing the
crowds back. It was not clear whether anyone was injured. By Tuesday
night, soldiers were assisting police in trying to restore order; the
military said their troops also would not be armed.
The People's Alliance for Democracy has vowed to bring down the
government that was elected last December but has been condemned by
protesters as a corrupt legacy of former Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra, who was removed by a military coup in 2006 after months of
protests by the alliance.
Somchai, the current prime minister, is Thaksin's brother-in-law.
Somchai has tried to reach out to the alliance, the most visible
manifestation of a deep and widening gulf in Thai politics.
"We need to revive the economy," Somchai told parliament Tuesday.
"It's time to reunite and help each other."
On one side of the divide is the government, elected to a convincing
majority late last year with the support of the rural poor who, until
Thaksin came along, were largely ignored by the political elite.
Thaksin wooed the poor with plans for health care, education and loans
for village improvement, and in the process welded together a
political machine that has so far proved unstoppable.
The opposition is mostly urban and middle class. Many of Tuesday's
protesters sported expensive digital cameras; their weapon of choice
seemed to be golf clubs.
One of the most damaging accusations against Thaksin was that he
wanted to abolish Thailand's revered monarchy, one of the country's
few unquestioned institutions. Alliance supporters wear yellow shirts
as a mark of their respect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej; a Bangkok
hospital said that Bhumibol's wife, Queen Sirikit, has donated 100,000
baht to help those injured in the demonstrations.
They accuse Thaksin and his successors of fostering corruption and
vote buying, and wanting to overthrow the king. They have shown little
appetite for compromise or negotiation.
"I'll be here until the Somchai government quits," said Suwan
Kansanoh, a retired government officer who had joined the
demonstration with his wife and a neighbor.
Somchai's efforts at reconciliation received an additional blow on
Tuesday with the resignation of one of his deputies, Chavalit
Yongchaiyuth, who had been given the task of negotiating with the
While the alliance shook Thailand's political establishment to its
foundations six weeks ago when it stormed and occupied the prime
minister's offices, it has since lost political momentum. Somchai
moved his operations to a converted terminal building at Bangkok's old
international airport, sidestepping further confrontation. And the
alliance's proposals for political reform have garnered little public
support; critics have called them both reactionary and ineffective.
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