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  • » 04/08/2010, 00.00


    Bangkok: more red-shirt protests after state of emergency is declared

    Weena Kowitwanij

    Protest leaders call on supporters to travel to Bangkok to celebrate Thai New Year and victory over the government. Abhisit announces road map for new elections to be held at the end of the year, seeks military support. About 78 per cent of the people want peace in the country.
    Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thailand’s ‘red-shirts’ have announced more demonstrations on Friday in response to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s declaration of a state of emergency. Leaders from the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), which is close to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have urged their supporters across the country to meet in Bangkok to celebrate Thai Mew Year (Songkran festival), scheduled for 12-15 April, and the movement’s victory over the government.

    Hope for a solution to the political crisis that has held the country in its grip appears to be fading fast. Anti-government protesters who took to the streets on 12 March have called for new elections with parliament dissolved within two weeks. Prime Minister Abhisit has responded by proposing a road map that would see the lower house of parliament dissolved by 6 December of this year and new rules adopted to allow for “free and peaceful” elections. Despite direct talks, the two sides have failed to reach an agreement.

    Prime Minister Abhisit yesterday declared a state of emergency in Bangkok, Nonthaburi and some districts in the provinces of Samutprakarn, Nakhon Pathom, Pathumtthanee and Ayudhaya.

    Thai authorities have blacked out a satellite TV station close to the Red Shirts.

    The prime minister has said he intends to restore peace, stop disinformation that could lead to more violence, prosecute some protest leaders and prevent sabotage. Government sources said plans are discussed to involve “military leaders” in the operations.

    The military and police are crucial to holding power in Thailand. However, the military has already said it would not use force, favouring dialogue to convince demonstrators to go home on a free return ticket.

    After seizing parliament yesterday, and forcing Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and other cabinet members to flee, red-shirt leaders announced more protests for the coming days. UDD Secretary General Nattavut SaiKoe appealed to party supporters across the country to travel to the capital “to celebrate the Songkran festival and the red-shirt victory”.

    In the meantime, early data on the impact of the protest movement have been issued, especially concerning the economy. Businesses have suffered major losses in the first two days of the protest, about 200 to 300 million baht (about US$ 6 million) a day. Tourism could lose up to ten billion baht.

    Thailand is getting ready to celebrate Thai New Year on 12-15 April. Everyone is hoping that festivities will be conducted in peace and harmony. A recent public opinion poll shows that 78 per cent of respondents want to see peace restored to the country.

    Everyone hopes that traditions will be respected, and that people will visit Buddhist temples to carry out the ritual of pouring water over the statue of the Buddha and one another.

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    See also

    10/05/2010 THAILAND
    Red-shirts propose a “red map” to end the country’s political crisis
    Anti-government protesters accept PM Abhisit’s road map timetable for new elections, but add new demands, including putting the deputy prime minister on trial for the violence of 10 April and the reopening of an opposition TV station.

    26/05/2010 THAILAND
    In Bangkok, thousands pray for peace
    Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus gather at dawn at ten points in the capital to renew an appeal for reconciliation. Analysts say divisions are deep; only major socio-political reforms can re-unify the country. The red shirts’ surrender does not mean peace.

    20/05/2010 THAILAND
    Three-night curfew in Bangkok as fear of more violence lingers
    The authorities have cleared the area occupied by the red-shirts. Some opposition leaders appeal for peace after surrendering to police. About 35 buildings were set on fire in the Thai capital, including the stock exchange. Yesterday’s clashes left 14 people dead. Overall, 82 people lost their lives since the protest began.

    14/05/2010 THAILAND
    Army begins final offensive against demonstrators in Bangkok, so far one dead, 12 wounded
    The army is trying to clear the area under red-shirt control. Three reporters are wounded during the clashes. Demonstrators set bus and tyres on fire. Two army vehicles are torched. Suspended army officer who backed protesters is in come after being hit by a sniper. ACHR director slams the Thai government for the violence.

    13/05/2010 THAILAND
    Army surrounding red shirts as crisis hits the stock market
    The authorities are getting ready for a showdown with demonstrators who vow to fight on. Protest leader says, “We will fight with our bare hands." Thai prime minister withdraws offer to hold elections on 14 November, pledges “to restore normalcy as soon as possible.” Markets are down as fears grow with regard to tourism.

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