News / Asia

Anti-Government Protesters, Thai Security Forces Face off in Bangkok

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Anti-government protesters in Bangkok overwhelmed security efforts to curb the demonstrations and pushed their rallies calling for new elections into more business and districts of the capital.  But, the protests, although tense at times, remained free of extreme violence.

The deployment of hundreds of police and military security failed Tuesday to halt demonstrations in Bangkok.

The protesters want Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament and call early elections.  They began their rallies nearly a month ago, but during the past four days, they have occupied a key intersection in a retail and tourist area of the city.

The government has ordered the demonstrators to move to other locations, and has issued arrest warrants for 10 leaders of the main group, the United Democratic Front against Dictatorship.

Police and troops in riot gear temporarily blocked protesters from spreading to other parts of the city.  But later, following negotiations, protesters were able to briefly occupy the financial district on Silom Road.

A police detective, who did not want to be identified, says the authorities aim to avoid a violent confrontation. "We will stay here, stay here.  Not use violence, not attack, but protect the demonstrator," he said.

In a nearby side street protesters also forced over 100 army personnel, armed only with shields, to back down in a brief stand-off.

A woman at the brief clash said she wants to a new election and she will not be afraid if there is violence. The protesters, known for wearing red shirts, largely support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006.

Thaksin lives in exile to avoid a two-year prison sentence for corruption, but remains highly popular among rural residents and the urban poor.

Prime Minister Abhisit, whose government must go to the polls by late 2011, says he is willing to compromise and hold elections in nine months.

Related video report by Daniel Schearf

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