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100 injured as Thai protesters, police clash – DPM Chavalit resigns for failure to successfully resolve political stalemate

October 7th, 2008 · No Comments


SCORES of people were injured when violence erupted on the streets of Bangkok yesterday after police deployed teargas to disperse anti-government protesters. Hopes of a peaceful resolution to the country’s political impasse lay in tatters, observers said.

Around 100 people were reported injured, more than 20 seriously, after police used teargas in the early hours of yesterday morning to disperse members of the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) who were blocking MPs’ access to Parliament.

Skirmishes took place throughout the day and police used teargas again at around 5pm to enable MPs and senators to leave Parliament. Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat earlier escaped from the compound by climbing over a fence.

Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the government’s key negotiator with the PAD, resigned after yesterday’s violence.

He said he was partly responsible for failing to bring about a successful resolution to the political stalemate.

Bangkok Metropolitan Police department said it had no other choice but to use force. But Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies, said the violence has worked to the PAD’s advantage.

‘The advantage in the political power game is with the PAD, not necessarily because it is right,’ he said. ‘This is going to galvanise the PAD and harden its resolve to bring down this elected government.’

More violence should be expected in days to come, he said, and any over-reaction from the government to provocation from the PAD could end up with military involvement. ‘If the army becomes involved, we could very well see an emergency decree declared, at which point the government is going to become even more untenable.’

Thailand’s opposition Democrat Party slammed the use of force and said it would refuse to attend any government sessions until an independent commission is set up to investigate the violence.

‘The way the police used teargas was not to disperse peaceful demonstrators,’ said Democrat spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks.

‘Teargas was shot at point-blank range at limbs and extremities resulting in three or four people needing to have amputations. It is clearly the use of excessive violence. The government has lost all legitimacy.’

The PAD’s nine core leaders have warrants for their arrests on charges of insurrection for leading an occupation of Government House, which has been ongoing since Aug 26. It is demanding the ouster of the People Power Party, which it says is a proxy for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Major-General Chamlong Srimuang, the PAD’s key strategist, was arrested on Sunday while casting his vote in Bangkok’s gubernatorial election, in a move observers say was calculated to escalate the situation.

‘He knew he would be arrested,’ said Dr Thitinan. ‘He wrote a letter beforehand to be read after his arrest, and it was soon after Chaiwat Sinsuwong, another PAD leader, was arrested.’

The PAD will be able to capitalise on the police’s use of violence, said Bangkok-based political and security analyst at PSA Asia, Ismail Wolff. ‘Whether they planned it or not, they’ve definitely used it to ratchet up their campaign to get more protesters on the street.’

Meanwhile, Thailand’s Queen Sirikit yesterday donated 100,000 baht (S$4,245) to pay for injured protesters’ hospital bills.

Published October 8, 2008
© The Business Times

Tags: news · The Business Times (Singapore)

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