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1973: Thai army shoots protesters

Dozens of people have been killed in the Thai capital of Bangkok in street battles between government troops and demonstrators.

Most of the victims were students from Thammasat University, who had gathered in large numbers for a second day of protests against the Thai military regime.

Violence broke out when several thousand students took to the streets demanding the military government step down. They are also calling for an early introduction of a constitution.

Confrontation

Today demonstrators barricaded streets leading to government offices. Witnesses say protesters threw stones and petrol bombs but were driven back by police and troops using live rounds.

Several people fell after shots were fired - reportedly the work of snipers.

There have also been reports of fire engines and buses being commandeered and driven into tanks.

Clashes between troops and students also occurred at Thammasat University after students began returning from the street demonstrations.

The students are angry with Field Marshal Thanom and his regime - successive military governments have ruled Thailand since 1947.

The field marshal abolished the existing constitution in a coup in November 1971, and less than 10 days ago 13 pro-democracy campaigners were arrested for calling for a permanent constitution.

After a peaceful protest march of about 200,000 people yesterday, the government pledged to introduce a new constitution within 12 months.

But there is considerable public scepticism about the government's promises - the last constitution took 10 years to be introduced.

Bangkok is now under a state of emergency. Newspaper censorship and curfews have been imposed, and schools in the capital will remain closed until the situation calms down.

In Context
Numerous testimonies indicate the regime opened fire on unarmed civilians. The official death toll was 77. Over 800 were wounded.

Later that day, Marshal Thanom resigned along with two other senior officers. The three were temporarily exiled.

Dr Sanya Dhammasak, rector of Thammasat University, became the new Prime Minister.

Civilian government survived until October 1976, when a military regime took over again.

There was another military coup in 1991. Elections in 1992 returned democracy to Thailand.

But in September 2006 the military intervened again, to remove Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Most Thais celebrate the 'October 14 Uprising' anniversary as Thai People's Rights and Freedom Day.


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