Monday, November 29, 1999

Curfew to be imposed as 24 killed in Thailand protest

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Bangkok, May 16 (DPA) Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced Sunday that schools would be shut and a curfew imposed in Bangkok as the death toll from three days of urban warfare rose to 24.The embattled prime minister said on nationwide broadcast that some 400 public schools scheduled to re-open for the new term Monday would remain closed until the following week.He said a night-time curfew would be imposed in the city. Details of the curfew plan would be announced later Sunday after meetings with the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation.The new measures followed three days of violent confrontations between troops and thousands of anti-government protesters who have been occupying the streets of the central commercial district since April 3.The protesters, including many rural and urban poor, are demanding the immediate dissolution of parliament and new elections. They are supported politically and financially by fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by an army coup in 2006.Efforts by the army and police to surround the protest site have been thwarted by guerrilla tactics and protesters wielding fireworks, slingshots and Molotov cocktails, as well as some firearms and grenades.'Armed terrorists are creating the violence,' Abhisit said in his Sunday morning broadcast. 'The government needs to crack down on these terrorists.'He said the conflict had reached a point where it was impossible to end the demonstration through peaceful means.Abhisit had offered a compromise including early dissolution of parliament and an election in November, but militants within the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship could not agree on ending the demonstration.As troops letting people out of the protest site but preventing them from entering, the number of demonstrators had dwindled to about 4,000 by late Saturday night, officials said.But earlier Saturday, skirmishes erupted well outside the protest site, with fires and sporadic shooting reported from dozens of locations in and around Bangkok.The latest spasm of violence was triggered Thursday night when the firebrand leader of the protestors' most militant wing, renegade Major General Khattiya Sawasdipol, was shot in the head while giving an interview to a group of journalists.Sunday, his blood pressure had dropped so much that he was suffering from kidney failure, the hospital director said. He remains in a coma.Street fighting since Thursday has left 24 dead, including eight killed Saturday, according to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's Erawan Emergency Centre. At least 78 more, including four journalists, have been wounded. Another 25 people were killed and hundreds injured April 10.Saturday, troops fired on demonstrators trying to break through to the main protest site at Ratchaprasong intersection. The army declared the area a 'free-fire zone', forbidding civilians and journalists from entering the area.The escalating violence has drawn concern from the international community and calls for a peaceful solution.UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appealed 'to both the protesters and the Thai authorities to do all within their power to avoid further violence and loss of life'.

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