Page last updated at 10:24 GMT, Wednesday, 28 April 2010 11:24 UK

Thailand violence flares as red-shirts and troops clash


Troops fire warning shots at red-shirt protesters

Thai troops and a convoy of hundreds of red-shirt protesters have clashed on the outskirts of Bangkok.

One soldier has died, reportedly from a shot fired by a member of the security forces, and at least 16 people have been injured.

The protesters had earlier left their fortified camp in central Bangkok to drive to a rally 50km (30 miles) away.

The red-shirts, who want the government to step down, have been camped out in Bangkok for more than six weeks.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has so far rejected their demand for him to dissolve parliament.

Separately on Wednesday the Constitutional Court agreed to consider a recommendation by the Electoral Commission to dissolve Mr Abhisit's ruling Democrat Party over misuse of funds.

'Friendly fire'

The red-shirts currently occupy a swathe of Bangkok from the commercial district running south to the business district.

Many remained behind in the camp as the convoy set off for the rally at the Talad Thai market.

14 Mar: Red-shirts converge on Bangkok, hold first big rally, occupy government district
16 Mar: Protesters splash their own blood at Government House
30 Mar: A round of talks with the government ends in deadlock
3 Apr: Red-shirts occupy Bangkok shopping district
7 Apr: PM Abhisit orders state of emergency
10 Apr: Troops try to clear protesters; 25 people are killed and hundreds injured
22 Apr: Grenade blasts kill one and injure 85 near protest hub; each side blames the other

But up to 1,000 protesters boarded pick-up trucks or motorbikes to make their way there.

There was no initial attempt to stop the convoy but hundreds of security forces had set up a checkpoint in Bangkok's northern suburbs. Some fired warning shots into the air.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in the Thai capital said the soldier who died appeared to have been shot in a "friendly fire" incident during a lull in the clashes.

Local hospitals said at least 16 people had been injured.

Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd told Associated Press news agency: "We brought force out to stop them. Society finds it unacceptable to have protesters travelling in a motorcade like this."

The convoy has now reportedly headed back to its central Bangkok base.

One protest leader, Kwanchai Praipanna, said Wednesday's rally had been planned to thank local people for their support.

Our correspondent says the convoy had been going to a northern suburb where earlier in the week protesters had set up a checkpoint to search vehicles for any troops being brought in to reinforce Bangkok.

Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva: 'willing to compromise' with protesters

She says that this does not seem to be the start of a major crackdown to evict the protesters from their main camp, although demonstrators still fear an operation is imminent.

Bangkok itself has remained mostly calm since grenade attacks last week in the business district killed one person and injured 80.

On Tuesday protesters blocked the elevated Skytrain line for several hours but it later reopened.

The weeks-long stand-off has hit Thailand hard, forcing major hotels and shops in central Bangkok to shut.

A government attempt to clear protesters from one area on 10 April left 25 people dead and hundreds injured.

The red-shirts, many of whom support ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra, say Mr Abhisit's government is illegitimate.

On Tuesday Mr Abhisit told the BBC that while he wanted a political solution to the crisis, immediate elections were not the answer.

"There is a clear threat that if we hold elections too soon, with the mood running as high in terms of divisions and in terms of tension, elections would turn violent and they would solve nothing and we could be back into this vicious cycle of demonstrations."

Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court has said it will consider dissolving Mr Abhisit's Democrat Party over the alleged failure to declare donations in the 2005 election campaign. No timeframe was given for a ruling.

Several governments have been thrown out in recent years following rulings instigated by the Electoral Commission.

Map showing Bangkok and shooting location

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