Monday, November 29, 1999

Thai troops face stubborn resistance as casualties mount

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Bangkok, May 17 (DPA) Thai troops faced stubborn resistance from anti-government protesters in Bangkok and several northern provinces Monday as the death toll from four days of clashes in the capital rose to 35.The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's Erawan Emergency Centre said another 244 people had been wounded in the clashes since Thursday night.The shooting Thursday night of renegade army General Khattiya Sawasdipol, 58, a militant leader of the protesters, touched off the latest round of violence. Khattiya, alias Seh Daeng (Red Commander) died Monday morning as a result of his head wound.Khattiya, 58, was shot by an unidentified sniper while being interviewed by reporters inside the barricaded protest site in central Bangkok.Local media reports also said an air force officer was among six people killed in overnight skirmishes Sunday with so-called red shirt protesters. A police captain was among the injured.Government offices and schools were closed Monday, as were Bangkok's mass transit Skytrain and underground services.A state of emergency was in effect in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces as well as several northern and northeastern provinces.Thousands of demonstrators have been occupying the streets of the city's central Ratchaprasong commercial district since April 3.The protesters 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.While the army has concentrated its siege on a 3 sq km zone around the main protest site, uprisings have spread in other areas, including the fringes of the sprawling Klong Toey slum community to the east and Din Daeng to the north of Ratchaprasong.Homemade bombs were thrown at two bank branches overnight in the northern province of Chiang Mai, a stronghold of Thaksin supporters, according to local media reports.Militants burned tyres in the northern province of Phayao and the north-eastern province of Ubon Ratchathani Thursday night in support of the Bangkok protesters.The protesters are drawn mainly from the country's urban and rural poor, who support Thaksin despite his conviction on corruption charges and self-imposed exile.In a broadcast Sunday, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva urged the estimated 4,000 people remaining within the fortified boundaries of the central protest site to go home or face arrest.Many of those remaining at the site are women and children, although late Sunday some of them accepted an offer of sanctuary within a nearby Buddhist temple.On Monday, the military gave those still inside a deadline of 3 p.m. to vacate the area.Buses would be provided to take the protesters home if they abandoned the area by 3 p.m., military officials said.

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