Page last updated at 09:05 GMT, Saturday, 15 May 2010 10:05 UK

Bangkok death toll rises amid bloody red-shirt clashes


The BBC's Chris Hogg says gunshots and explosions have been heard in Bangkok on Saturday

Thai troops are clashing with anti-government protesters in the capital Bangkok, on a third day of violence that has killed at least 16 people.

Plumes of smoke are rising from sections of the city centre, where the protesters, who want the prime minister to resign, are barricaded in a camp.

Authorities have ruled out negotiations with the red-shirt protesters.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged both protesters and the authorities to avoid further violence.

His office said he "strongly encourages them to urgently return to dialogue in order to de-escalate the situation and resolve matters peacefully".

The US has also urged restraint and encouraged the two sides "to find a way to work peacefully through these differences".

Despite claims by the Thai government that the situation is under control and its soldiers have only fired in self-defence, explosions and sporadic gunfire can still be heard around the protest site, where barricades of tyres are still burning.

Live rounds

Some 150 people have been injured since violence broke out in the Thai capital on Thursday evening, and there were reports of three more deaths on Saturday.

The Bangkok authorities have cut off water and electricity to the camp in a renewed effort by the government to reclaim the city centre after a two-month stand-off.

Rachel Harvey

Rachel Harvey,
BBC News, Bangkok
Within the camp, men and women, young and old, are sleeping on mats, preparing food, or listening to speeches from a specially erected stage.

The rhetoric is becoming every more strident. The more radical leaders appear to have the upper hand now and are warning of further bloodshed if troops continue their operation to seal off the area.

A group of young men, most dressed in black, look out nervously from behind their barricade of bamboo staves and tyres.

There is a loud explosion a short distance away, and there is panic as protesters rush for cover. For now an area in the commercial centre of the Thai capital is a no go zone.

The Thai army has also designated an area of the city as a "live firing zone" in a warning to protesters, with signs in Thai and English notices saying "Restricted Area. No Entry."

Troops have set up roadblocks to prevent further protesters from entering the camp.

Around a third of the city is now under emergency rule, but while there are pockets of fighting in that area, life beyond the barricades seems to be going on as normal, correspondents say.

Inside the camp, red-shirt leader Kwanchai Praipana said stocks were running low because of the blockade, but added that they would last "for days".

"We'll keep on fighting until the government takes responsibility," he said.

On Friday, troops fired live rounds, tear gas and rubber bullets in clashes with the protesters, who threw petrol bombs and stones at the soldiers.

Journalists shot

Violence escalated on Thursday after a renegade general who supports the protests was shot in the head by an unknown gunman.

Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, better known as Seh Daeng (Commander Red), is in a critical condition and doctors believe he is unlikely to survive.

The American and British embassies were among several foreign missions closed on Friday.

Broadcaster France 24 said its Canadian-born TV reporter Nelson Rand had been hit in the leg, hand and abdomen. He has undergone surgery and is said to be recovering.

A Thai cameraman from the VoiceTV news website and a photographer for the Thai newspaper Matichon were both shot in the leg, their news outlets said.

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
28 Apr: Policeman shot in clashes in northern Bangkok
13-14 May: 10 killed in Bangkok clashes

A government spokesman said troops had come under attack and "had no choice but to respond".

The spokesman, Panitan Wattanayagorn, said soldiers were authorised to use live rounds in self-defence, for warning shots or against armed protesters.

The military said some protesters had fired guns and threw grenades.

The protesters, who have adopted the colour red, have reinforced the barricades around their camp made of bamboo stakes, tyres and sandbags.

Many of the protesters support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

They want Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections.

He had offered polls in November - but the two sides failed to agree a deal because of divisions over who should be held accountable for a deadly crackdown on protests last month.

Mr Thaksin has called on the government to withdraw troops and restart negotiations.

Thailand's worst political unrest in nearly two decades has now left at least 42 people dead and more than 1,400 wounded.


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