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Thai Protest Leaders Press for Ceasefire as Deadly Clashes Continue

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Daniel Schearf

Leaders of an anti-government protest in Thailand are asking for a ceasefire to end violence that has killed 10 people and wounded more than 100 others.

Explosions and gunfire rang throughout the Thai capital Friday as clashes continued between anti-government protesters and soldiers.

Soldiers used rubber bullets, tear gas, and live ammunition to disperse demonstrators who set fire to a bus and rubber tires.

Most of those killed in the fighting were protest guards who have been responsible for the demonstrators' security.

At least three journalists were among the wounded, including a Canadian cameraman who was severely injured.

Sean Boonpracong is a spokesman for the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship, the main organizer of the protest. He blamed soldiers for the violence and said it needed to end.

"With so much uncertainty, UDD has proposal to make to the government…that peace is our aim. And, we would like to see a ceasefire," Boonpracong said.

Boonpracong says the government should also end the emergency decree that has allowed the deployment of soldiers.

An Army spokesman said they had no plan to clear the demonstrators but would try to keep them contained.

Thai authorities say the protesters have used weapons against soldiers and intend to attack the public as well."

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn spoke on national television late Friday.

"The Royal Thai government is very confident that we are able and willing and committed to stabilize the situation. And, the situation will be very much under control very soon," said Panitan.

The government Thursday ordered soldiers to seal off the area to pressure the protest to end.

The protesters, mainly from the countryside, say the government is illegitimate and are demanding it step down and allow new elections.

For two months they have occupied a central Bangkok commercial district, forcing hotels and businesses to shut down.

More than 35 people have been killed since the protest began in March.

The latest clashes erupted after a General supporting the demonstrators was shot Thursday night, apparently by a sniper.

Protest leaders accuse the government of ordering the attack. Thai authorities have denied they were responsible and say all cases of violence will be investigated.

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