Thailand: Red Shirts Soldiers Clash, Death and Injuries Result
The standoff between the current Thai government and the Red Shirt protesters has resulted in violent clashes with soldiers resulting in death and injuries. The capital city of Bangkok has been under seige by the Red Shirts since early March when peaceful demonstrations saw thousands of people call for elections. The present prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, came to power as a result of a military coup which ousted popular Thaksin Shinawatra.
Protesters hurled petrol bombs at troops who fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas back at them across the capital.
As night fell, a Bangkok hospital official said at least five people had been killed, four of whom were protesters and one was a Japanese cameraman for the Reuters news agency.
Disorder has also spread to the city of Chiang Mai in the north of the country.
Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister, is seen as an ally of the country and poorer people, while the rich and middle class view him as divisive. He has been sentenced to two years in prison by Thai courts for a business deal and is in exile. The Red Shirts are not calling for his return, but they are calling for immediate dissolving of parliament and quick, democratic elections.
Last April, the Asean summit meeting in Pattaya was disrupted by Red Shirt demonstrators, resulting in a major loss of face for prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
How was this possible? The prime minister had staked his reputation on pulling off this summit. He was hosting Premier Wen Jiabao of China, and Prime Minister Taro Aso of Japan, the powers everyone in this region looks up to.
There are other areas of unrest in Thailand as well as the action of the Red Shirts. Clashes on the Thai/Cambodia border and separatists in the south contribute to danger to the unwary tourist.
The UK government advisory service, Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising its nationals to remain indoors in Bangkok and are reminded that a state of emergency exists. The office advises against all but essential travel to some southern provinces due to the insurgency there. They recommend travellers to Thailand obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before leaving the UK.