The State Department said Wednesday that the United States deeply deplores the violence between the Thai government and protesters, and appealed for restraint by all parties. The issue is expected to be on the agenda for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's three-nation Asia trip that begins on Thursday.
In its strongest comments of the political upheaval in Thailand, the State Department said it "deeply deplores" the violence and loss of life on the streets of Bangkok and appealed for restraint and a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Speaking after a crackdown on anti-government demonstrations in the Thai capital was followed by widespread arson and looting, State Department Deputy Spokesman Gordon Duguid said authorities and the Red Shirt protest movement need to resolve their differences through Thailand's democratic institutions.
"We are encouraged by the actions of the Red Shirt leaders who have surrendered to law enforcement agencies, and support their call to supporters to return home peacefully," said Gordon Duguid. "However, we are deeply concerned that Red Shirt supporters have engaged in arson, targeting the electricity infrastructure and media outlets, and have attacked individual journalists. We condemn such behavior and call on UDD [Red Shirt] leaders and affiliated opposition politicians to urge their supporters to stop such acts."
Earlier, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Kurt Campbell said he expects the Thai situation to be discussed on all three stops of Secretary Clinton's trip to Japan, China and South Korea.
Campbell said U.S. officials are aware of "substantial" burning and looting in neighborhoods throughout Bangkok, and reports of sporadic violence throughout the country.
He said he has spoken with U.S. Ambassador to Thailand William Itoh and that he would meet with Thai diplomats here in Washington to discuss the situation.
Spokesman Duguid said the U.S. embassy in Bangkok, near the scene of major violence, is closed but that it is providing emergency consular services to U.S. citizens from a hotel in the capital.
The State Department says U.S. citizens should defer all travel to Bangkok, and defer all but essential travel to the rest of the country.
The State Department authorized the departure of non-emergency embassy personnel and family members from Bangkok.
At least 74 people have been killed and at least 1,700 others have been wounded since the Red Shirts began their demonstrations in Bangkok in March.