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Sunday Summary / update on Thai Crisis

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Sunday Summary / update on Thai Crisis | Thaiger

PHUKET: The Phuket Gazette‘s own correspondents and Nation partner reporters in Bangkok join our Phuket-based NEWS Hound team this morning to present a Sunday snapshot of the turmoil in Bangkok and some glimpses into its increasingly adverse impacts.

24 dead as army told to “shoot on sight”

Since violence re-erupted in Bangkok on Thursday with the shooting of renegade army general Seh Daeng, 24 people have been killed, bringing to 54 the death toll since March 12 when the protests began. More than 1,100 have been injured, including more than 150 during the past three days.

The Guardian reports this morning that the Thai army has declared parts of Bangkok “live-fire zones”, warning that anyone found entering certain roads in the capital will be shot on sight.

The move came as one of the leaders of the red shirt protesters said there would be “civil war” if the army did not pull back and declare a ceasefire.

Prime Minister defends policy

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva last night defended the government’s protest-containment policy, arguing it was the best way to address Bangkok’s security situation.

The premier insisted there would be no turning back, although Natthawut Saikua, one of the protest leaders, asked for an immediate cease-fire and a return to the negotiating table.

Noting that there are currently about 6,000 protesters in the Rajprasong rally area, he confirmed that the roads around and into that 4-5 sq-km area have been sealed off since Thursday, with joint police/military checkpoints set up to prevent anyone entering it.

“This is to pressure them to end their rallies and to minimise losses. Authorities [have] only set up barricades around the Rajprasong area and they have not yet entered inside,” the premier said.

“However, there are groups of armed militants out there, trying to stop the security forces from doing their work. I insist that our containment policy is necessary as we cannot allow the movement to use armed militants to overthrow the government.

“This policy is currently the only way to restore law and order in this country, as we earlier attempted to use other methods, such as holding negotiations [but they failed]. Now we need to have the protesters end their rallies if we wish to see minimum losses.

“As long as there are rallies, there will be attacks from armed militants. Hence, I asked the public to cooperate with the authorities by getting themselves out of the current conflict so that officials can do their work on your behalf,” the premier said.

Journalists in firing line

Three journalists suffered gunshot wounds on Friday while covering the explosion of violence in Bangkok, where troops have opened fire during tense confrontations with “Red Shirt” demonstrators in the heart of the city.

AFP reports that these incidents prompted media watchdog Reporters Without Borders to call on the army and the protesters “to guarantee the safety of the journalists” in the capital.

“The confusion reigning in various parts of Bangkok does not suffice to explain the shooting injuries sustained by several Thai and foreign journalists since April… Both camps must comply fully with the requirements of international law, according to which journalists cannot be military targets,” it said in a statement.

Thai economy hammered

Bloomberg notes that the cost to protect Thai government bonds from default surged by the most in 15 months on Friday, and the baht fell as the death toll from the protests rose.

“The situation looks really bad and investors may want to sell Thai assets,” said Minori Uchida, senior analyst in Tokyo at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd.

“The protests have lasted quite long and this will hurt the economy. The baht may stay under pressure,” he added.

The baht fell 0.2 percent to 32.39 per dollar and reached 32.43, matching a one-month low touched on May 6. It may weaken to around 32.50 in the next few days, Uchida says.

Bangkok retailers hammered

The Star Telegram reports that businesses in the red shirt protest district in Bangkok are losing 174 million baht a day and some 20,000 employees have been sent home, with or without pay, or relocated, according to the Rajprasong Square Trade Association.

The Thai Restaurant Association reports that 1,500 member restaurants and small food outlets in Rajprasong and adjoining districts have temporarily shut down.

The government has already granted extensions on deadlines for paying corporate, value-added and land taxes, and other proposals, including soft loans to the ailing businesses, are being considered.

The businesses are conducting offsite sales and delivering their goods as a way to cope in the meantime.

Many of the smaller retailers, unable to afford a move to other locations or to wait for government aid, have gone out of business entirely.

UN pleads with Thailand

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon voiced concern over the mounting violence in Thailand yesterday and urged the government and protesters to return to talks, according to a UN statement.

The Bangkok Post reports that he called on opposing sides to avert bloodshed and resume talks.

“The Secretary-General is following with growing concern the rapidly mounting tensions and violence in Thailand,” a statement issued by his spokesman said.

“He is saddened by the reports of numerous civilian deaths, including journalists, as a result of the latest clashes between protesters and security forces….

“He appeals to both the protesters and the Thai authorities to do all within their power to avoid further violence and loss of life.”


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