Bangkok protests turned bloody but advocated for both sides to return to table for further talks

0
64

The government sued the opposition for peace on Saturday night, after a failed but bloody attack by police and the army on red shirt encampments left fifteen people dead and hundreds wounded in bloody street battles.

A spokesman said Korbsak Sabhavasu, the prime minister’s secretary-general, has been assigned to try to negotiate a truce with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leaders

In a Thai PBS TV panel discussion comprising several academics and businessmen, most agreed that both sides could not force the other side to yield to their demands by using force which resulted in a stalemate.

They advocated both sides to return to table for further talks.

Tomorrow the global community would headline the death of the Japanese photographer in the latest clash between the government’s securities and the demonstrators.

Mr Abhisit should show his statemanship by offering the olive branch by offering to talk first to calm the situation.

In a Thai PBS TV panel discussion comprising several academics and businessmen, most agreed that both sides could not force the other side to yield to their demands by using force which resulted in a stalemate.

They advocated both sides to return to table for further talks.

Tomorrow the global community would headline the death of the Japanese photographer in the latest clash between the government’s securities and the demonstrators.

Mr Abhisit should show his statemanship by offering the olive branch by offering to talk first to calm the situation.

Several speakers urged Mr Abhisit to calm the angry of the red shirts seeing their fellow dead by formally expressing his regret in ordering the securities to clear the areas. They also called on the red- shirts leaders not to inflame the situation as it would not benefit them or the government if the third hand decided to abolish the stage that both sides are playing by staging a coup and appointing a national government.

The panel also wanted both sides to agree to the agenda, the so-called ground rules so that both would stick to the agenda, not veering to other issues to score political points. It is obvious that the red shirts should not force the government to dissolve the House immediately, the only issue is when as the government insists on doing necessary things before dissolving the House.

About implementing political and social reforms which should solve the deep-rooted problems, this should be put as a national agenda and any upcoming government must be bound to carry it through.

One more thing, any political party must be able to hold campaign rallies in any province, in any area and in any region without facing heckling and opposition by any side, as that is not democracy.

Hiro Muramoto, a Japanese photographer who worked for Thomson Reuters in Tokyo, was shot and killed during the riots.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva expressed sorrow for the deaths incurred during the clash between the securities personnel and demonstrators today, in a live TV pool broadcast.

Mr Abhisit said that it was the first time that a Thai prime minister had agreed to talk with the demonstrators twice. However, he could not agree with the unreasonable demand of the demonstrators.

The government was very patient in dealing with the mob who were hell-bent to escalate the pressure to force the government’s hands. The daily violence, especially M79 grenades, was the testimony that the gathering was not intended to be peaceful.

“It’s not over yet,” said Mr Abhisit. “I’m confident if we stay true to righteousness, we will win the day.”

The red shirts, angry but confident after repelling the security forces, appeared defiant.

“This is just the first round,” said UDD core leader Nathawut Saikua.

And Veera Musikhapong, who participated in peace talks with the government, changed his tune as well. “We are changing our demand from dissolving Parliament in 15 days to dissolving Parliament immediately. And we call on Abhisit to leave the country immediately,” he told a cheering crowd after the government troops retreated.

The government was under tremendous pressure to deal with unlawful assemblies. Yesterday was seen by the people as the testimony of the government’s weakness in handling unlawful activities. So today the securities personnel were sent to clear the areas to return to the people.

Mr Abhisit said that it was obvious that the mob had weapons as reported by the media, though they might make an excuse that it was only for defence.

Mr Abhisit said the securities personnel were allowed only to use live bullets to shoot into the air or for self-defence.

Now that there were casualties, the government and the UDD leaders agreed to talk to calm the situation. UDD were still allowed to assemble, but the government would not tolerate any illegal activities that pressure the government and inconvience the public

An independent panel has been appointed to investigate the deaths.

Either side must not blame others for death, he concluded.

The call for truce came after at least 100 soldiers were reportedly wounded in the clashes with the red-shirts at Khok Wua intersection on Ratchadamnoen Avenue on Saturday night while trying to advance towards Phan Fa bridge amid fierce resistance by the red-shirts.

Television reports said the red-shirts lit a gas cylinder and rolled it toward the soldiers at Khok Wua intersection. The subsequent explosion wounded at least 50 soldiers.

At the same time, gunshots were reportedly fired from red-shirts, wounding 50-60 soldiers on Tanao road near Khok Wua intersection.

The wounded were rushed to Vajira Hospital.

Hand grenades were also thrown at soldiers who were equipped with only shields, batons and tear gas launchers.

Noises of machinegun fire and three M79 grenade explosion were also heard.

The soldiers were forced to retreat.

An onlooker and an ASTV cameraman were reportedly wounded.

The call for truce came about eight hours after security forces began a crackdown on red-shirt protesters, firing teargas and rubber bullets at them intermittenlty from 1pm in an effort to take control of the Phan Fa Bridge which they have used as a base for about a month.

At least 650 people had been injured, some with serious gunshot wounds, according to the Public Health Ministry.

Col Sansern earlier said the government would to clear the protesters from Phan Fa Bridge, which is one of the two main rally sites, by nightfall. But the operation failed.

A UDD leader Veera Musikhapong early on Saturday night called on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve the House of Representatives and leave the country immediately.

He also condemned the government, alleging it authorised soldiers to use weapons against the red-shirt protesters weapons on Ratchadamnoen Avenue.

He said the UDD’s fight against the government had reached its peak, and exhorted red-shirts throughout the country to gather at the city halls in their provinces.

Mr Veera said a number of red-shirts would be moved from Ratchaprasong, under the leadership of Natthawut Saikua and Arisman Pongruangrong, to protect the other rally base at Phan Fa Bridge, which the government aimed to seize tonight.

PM’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey posted a Twitter message on Saturday night the Government House was attacked with two M79 grenades about 8.10pm, but only one exploded.

Mr Sathit also said a helicopter which flew over the rally area was fired on at, wounding one soldier.

The red shirts will not be defeated even if the ongoing crackdown is successful in dispersing the anti-government protesters at Phan Fa Bridge, red-shirt leader Natthawut Saikua said.

“Do not think that the government will win, this is just the first round (of fighting),” Mr Natthawut said, speaking on stage at the Ratchaprasong rally.

Fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra also sent an SMS message to his supporters saying: “[Prime Minister] Abhisit [Vejjajiva] has ordered the suppression of the people. Please come out to help save democracy. There must be justice.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of red-shirts in Khon Kaen province were gathering at Ratchadanusorn public park in front of the provincial hall after they learned about the attempt to disperse protesters in the capital.

The red-shirts said they were ready to storm the provincial hall once they received the order from core UDD leaders in Bangkok.

Pol Col Chalong Phakpinyo, Khon Kaen deputy police chief, said anti-riot police were stationed inside and around the provincial hall compound and at other important state offices.

He was confident that police could keep the situation under control.

In Bangkok, about 20 armoured personnel carriers have been despatched to protect important government buildings throughout the city, spokesman of the Centre for Public Administration in Emergency Situations, Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd, said.

The armoured vehicles were deployed from a cavalry battalion at Kiak Kai intersection to prevent red shirt protesters from storming government builidngds and other sensitive sites, he said.

The locations included the First Army headquarters and the Si Sao Thewes residence of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda, he said.