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Terrorism & Security

Thai PM preps snipers, police to seal off red shirt protest site

An agreement between the red shirts and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has broken down, with protesters vowing to continue their Bangkok sit-in and the government ordering armored vehicles and snipers to surround and seal off the protest site.

By Correspondent / May 13, 2010

Thai soldiers guard a major shopping district on Thursday in Bangkok, Thailand. Authorities have vowed to take a harder approach in dealing with the red shirts antigovernment protesters who have occupied the Thai capital for more than two months demanding new elections.

Wong Maye-E/AP

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Thai authorities plan to seal off the site of a massive two-month-long demonstration on Thursday by closing roads and surrounding protesters with armored vehicles and snipers.

The announced plan sparked calls for reinforcements from the protesters and tensions were running high in Bangkok, the Thai capital. Because the protesters have refused to budge, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on May 12 rescinded his offer to hold elections this November.'

The protesters, called "red shirts" for their clothing, are largely from rural areas of Thailand and consider the current government illegitimate and controlled by elites. They have demanded the immediate dissolution of parliament and new elections. At least 29 people have been killed and more than 1,000 wounded in clashes between police and protesters since the red shirts stormed Bangkok on March 12.

The Thai baht fell Thursday after Thai authorities announced they will close the roads leading to the red shirts’ camp in the commercial district and prevent anyone from entering the area, Reuters reported. The Associated Press reported that armored vehicles and snipers will surround the protest site and that the police “will not hesitate” to shoot armed “terrorists” who resist authorities.

The government’s announcement comes a day after Abhisit backed down from his threat to cut off water and electricity to the commercial district and set a deadline for the protesters to leave the area.

Abhisit’s credibility is wearing thin, reports The Bangkok Post, because of his repeated ultimatums, and he risks losing support if he is not able to end the crisis soon. He appeared to have brought the crisis to an end Monday when the red shirts conditionally accepted his compromise offer to hold elections for a new government in November if the red shirts would abandon their protest, according to World Politics Review:

On the face of it, the roadmap makes attempts to address some of these issues by promoting political and economic reform to address social injustice, and by dissolving the lower house to make way for a general election. It also calls for upholding the constitutional monarchy, establishing an independent body to regulate news and media organizations, and setting up an independent committee to investigate the deadly clashes between security forces and protesters as well as bombings and shootings that the government characterized as acts of terrorism.

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