Bangkok protests may be breaking up

PHUKET: Government TV Channel 11 reported late this morning that Veera Musigapong, a Thaksin supporter and red-shirt leader, told the protesters at Government House in Bangkok to disperse.

Weng Tojitrakan, another red-shirted leader, asked soldiers to move back by 20 meters so that the protesters could pick up their belongings and leave the site.

Veera told the crowd that the voluntary dispersal of the protesters was not a defeat of the red-shirted movement, but was aimed at protecting the lives of the protesters.

No immediate mass movement of the crowd at Government House has been reported, however.

The leaders were also reportedly saying that they themselves were willing to surrender to the police following fierce rioting over the past few days. The mob action, incited by fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who manipulated the protesters through phone-ins and video appearances from an unknown location overseas, resulted in many injuries, widespread property damage, and at least two deaths.

The protests were also widely perceived to have inflicted great damage to the ‘face’ of the nation, coming as they did during an ASEAN conference that had to be aborted by the prime minister for security reasons.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, also on TV this morning, announced that police arrested three suspects Monday night who allegedly were involved in arson plots against key targets in Bangkok, including the Bangkok Bank headquarters and a CP building.

One of the suspects reportedly confessed. Senior officers accompanying Suthep at the press announcement said the three were arrested with pistols, bullets and “a lot” of petrol. The items were shown at the TV Pool press announcement.

Meanwhile, here in Phuket, the entire island is ‘public-holiday’ calm, without the slightest indication of any disturbances in the nation’s capital. Offices and schools remain closed through tomorrow, re-opening Thursday morning after the three-day annual Songkran (New Year) hiatus.

Phuket News

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