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Thailand - crackdown on protest

Arrest warrant issued for Thaksin after Red Shirt protesters leave Bangkok

Article published on the 2009-04-14 Latest update 2009-04-29 07:36 TU

Supporters of ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra leave the Government House area(Photo: Reuters)

Supporters of ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra leave the Government House area
(Photo: Reuters)

Red-shirted anti-government protesters have left the scene of their three-week sit-in in Bangkok, as the government threatens a clampdown on their leaders. An arrest warrant has been issued for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shiniawattra and troops have moved into the area in front of Government House and shipped demonstrators out of the area in buses.

Clashes with local people at the end of a stormy Monday left two Bangkok residents dead and 123 people injured, 50 of whom are in hospital, according to the Public Health Ministry. Protesters torched a bus at the barricades near Government House and set fires before leaving.

Cabinet Minister Satit Wonghnongtaey said that three residents had been shot by protesters loyal to ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and that one 54-year-old had died in hospital.

An official at the privately-run Hua Chiew Hospital near the clash site said that a 19-year-old man had also been killed.

Officials announced Tuesday that an arrest warrant has been issued for Thaksin, although he is living in exile.

In an interview on CNN television, Thaksin accused the government of convering up deaths and claimed that soldiers had killed many people.

And an army spokesperson said that soldiers fired live rounds overhead during the offensive to "terrify" protesters, but only blanks were used in close-range encounters.

Left-wing academic Ji Ungpakhorn, who has fled the country following lèse-majesté charges, slammed the Abhisit Vejajjiva government, declaring that firing on demonstrators is "not 'restraint' nor "the application of the Rule of Law',” in a blog.

Ungpakhorn told RFI that the government is inflaming the crisis with their actions and makes them appear to be "butchers".

Comment: Ji Ungpakhorn in Oxford, UK

14/04/2009 by Salil Sarkar

On Monday, Red Shirt leader Veera Musikapong told the crowd to disperse.

"All of my brothers and sisters, please give up and board these buses provided by police," he said, after climbing onto a police truck to address the crowd. "Police will take good care of you."

Police say that they will now arrest and charge the Red Shirt leaders under state of emergency provisions.

"All the core protest leaders will be prosecuted," National Police Chief Patcharawat Wongsuwan declared. "The arrest warrants will be issued very soon on charges of illegal assembly of more than five people, which is banned under the emergency rule."

He added that the whereabouts of at least two of the Red Shirts chiefs is unknown.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban announced on television that police had arrested three suspects in alleged arson plots against high-profile target, including Bangkok Bank.

The government has declared an extra two days of holiday on Thursday and Friday, to make up for disruption of Thai New Year celebrations. The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday sought to encourage tourists to return to the country with an assurance that the situation is backto normal.

"Foreigners have not been targeted in the on-going political conflict," a Ministry statement said. "The Government will continue to step up measures to ensure the safety and well-being of foreigners in Thailand, as well as the security and continued operations of the country's airports,"

To see a slideshow of Monday's events by RFI's French service, click here:

For blogs on the events: