Thailand's government faces an escalating crisis after police
repeatedly fired tear gas to break up protesters blockading the
parliament building. The clashes led to the resignation of a deputy
prime minister. As Ron Corben reports from Bangkok, the strife sets
back efforts by Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to defuse months of
The violence in Bangkok erupted early
Tuesday when riot police using tear gas and stun bombs to clear
anti-government demonstrators who had barricaded themselves outside the
The protesters, led by the People's
Alliance for Democracy, unsuccessfully tried to prevent Prime Minister
Somchai Wongsawat from making his maiden policy speech.
and protesters clashed several times during the day, and nearby
hospitals reported more than 100 people were admitted with injuries.
A doctor at the Ramathibodi Hospital says emergency wards are on high alert.
are prepared for mass casualty in the hospitals around about three to
five hospitals around this area ... bomb or just eye [tear] gas," said the doctor.
PAD supporters, angry over the arrest of two of their leaders, vow to continue their blockade until the government quits.
Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh resigned to take responsibility
for Tuesday's clashes. He had been working to negotiate an end to the
PAD siege of the prime minister's office building.
accuse Mr. Somchai's government of acting as a proxy for deposed Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He now lives in Britain, having fled in
August to avoid corruption charges. PAD supporters accuse Mr. Thaksin
of being corrupt and authoritarian.
A protester named Sam, was among thousands calling for the government to resign.
people do not accept this government, so what we ask for, we ask for
real democracy not a government of Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra … and this
prime minister is the brother-in-law of Thaksin Shinawatra," he said.
protesters accuse of the government of seeking to undermine the
country's revered monarchy. Wannnisayanam says more people are coming
to join the protests despite the clashes with police.
been here for the king - our king. We are not going to let anybody
destroy democracy - you see how many people that are coming here," said
The PAD leadership wants to prevent Mr.
Somchai's government from passing constitutional amendments that
critics say favor Mr. Thaksin. However, the PAD wants to rewrite the
constitution so that most members of parliament will be selected by
elite groups such as business owners.
Sunai Pasuk, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch's Thai office, says the PAD appears to hope to trigger a military intervention.
is a situation where the PAD can conveniently pressure the military to
take sides.… It is clear that the crackdown can be categorized as
excessive use of violence by security forces and the action of the
police today can be directly linked to the policy of Prime Minister
Somchai," he said.
In his policy speech Tuesday, Mr. Somchai
called for national reconciliation, and said his government is
determined to tackle economic problems the country faces.