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Thai Protests Prompt Hospital Evacuation


Thai protesters stormed a major hospital in Bangkok, forcing the facility to evacuate patients and suspend operations Friday. Thailand's prime minister tells VOA a government reconciliation plan is key to ending the Red Shirts' weeks-long, anti-government protests.

The Chulalongkorn Hospital in Bangkok evacuated patients and stopped all procedures Friday after about 100 Red Shirt protesters stormed the facility late Thursday.

The anti-government protesters rushed into the hospital looking for troops believed to be hiding in the building. They withdrew after failing to find any soldiers, and a Red shirt leader later apologized saying the hospital raid was inappropriate.

The Red Shirts have staged protests for seven weeks, virtually paralyzing the capital.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told VOA a government reconciliation plan is key to ending the protests. He said the government backs political and security solutions aimed at easing tensions.

"As far as the political issues are concerned the government is about to complete some kind of roadmap which we think is necessary for the country to achieve reconciliation," Mr. Abhisit said. "On security issues we continue to need to enforce the law and therefore the operations of police, the army must continue."

The government has not released details of the reconciliation plan, but government sources said it centers on a 'political solution'.

The Red Shirts are made up mostly of the rural poor and urban working class and support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They say Mr. Abhisit was installed in office illegally, and are demanding that he call new elections.

Their political rivals, the Yellow Shirts, support Thailand's monarchy.

Thousands of police and army troops are now deployed in the central commercial area of Bangkok, known as Rajaprasong.

Mr. Abhisit said the government would apply pressure on those breaking the law. But the prime minister gave no details on when and if security forces will move against them.

"We will do our best to achieve a quick resolution but I think people can see more and more clearly how complicated the issue is – particularly with the network of people in parliament, in the demonstrations, people engaged in terrorist activities, intimidation," said Prime Minister Abhisit.

The Red Shirt protesters have constructed barricades in the event of a military crackdown and are largely armed with sharpened bamboo sticks, sling shots and stones.

The protests, which began peacefully, have killed 27 people and wounded nearly 1,000 since they began.

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