Clashes, fires roil Bangkok despite red-shirt protest leaders' surrender
Protesters burned buildings around Bangkok Wednesday even after troops overran the red-shirt camp and their leaders surrendered. Clashes left five people dead.
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After deadly clashes on April 10, negotiators thrashed out a peace plan that included a promise of elections in November. But the deal fell apart as UDD leaders failed to muster support for compromise and more radical voices came to the fore, including a renegade Army general, Khattiya Sawadispol. Last week he was shot by a sniper, the trigger for deadly clashes with soldiers who set up a cordon around the site.Skip to next paragraph
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Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a politics professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, says the red shirts should have accepted the peace plan offered by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Pro-UDD politicians were favored to win the election, as they have huge support in the countryside.
Moderate leaders “were ready to declare victory and go home,” he says. Opposition came from militants accused of fomenting violent attacks and the exiled Mr. Thaksin, who wants to return to power, he says.
Anusart Suwanmongkol, a conservative senator, says Thaksin had been the biggest obstacle to brokering a cease-fire. “In the end, whatever negotiators agreed upon they have to get the final approval” from him, he says.
Thaksin denies involvement
In a statement Wednesday, Thaksin denied that he was the mastermind behind the protests and said that he didn’t believe in violence, CNN reported. He also denied that he had meddled in the talks. “They did not demand anything for me or on my behalf. I am not UDD," he said.
At an intersection south of the rally site, hundreds of people gathered at midday to watch burning tires in a near-deserted six-lane road and cheer as motorbike riders dodged gunfire from behind the black smoke. Residents said that Army snipers were hiding in an unfinished apartment block near the barricade of tires. Several shops were also burning.
A black pickup truck careered out from an ally and skidded to a halt at the junction. In the back were a dozen or so car and bicycle tires. Men wearing scarves to cover their faces and carrying radios circulated in the crowd.
Then, loud shots rang out, wounding a protester in the shoulder. As he was bundled into a pickup truck to take to hospital, explosives rent the air and gunfire erupted from both sides. The black smoke curled into the sky, shrouding the high-rise towers.
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