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Four Dead In Political Violence In Thailand

Protests in Thailand have taken a fairly violent turn:

Four protesters have been killed and more than 100 people injured in Bangkok as pro- and antigovernment rivals face off in escalating street clashes, with police unleashing tear gas and water cannons on the riotous crowd on Sunday. Embattled Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was forced to flee from the police sports club where she was based to a secret location after protesters stormed the compound.

Opponents of Yingluck, a coalition of urban royalists and traditional elites known by the collective moniker Yellow Shirts, have accused her of being merely a proxy for her brother, billionaire former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and was convicted of corruption in absentia, but maintains popular support among the nation’s rural poor in the highly populated northeast part of the country. His supporters are known as Red Shirts.

Sunday was deemed the deadline for weeklong attempts to oust the Yingluck Administration, and demonstrators set about destroying barricades and attempting to enter several government compounds across the Thai capital, also throwing rocks and petrol bombs. “We’re very concerned about the violence, and we’ve been urging both the protesters and government to respect rights,” says Phil Robertson, Bangkok-based deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, which has been closely monitoring unfolding events.

Protesters at Government House, where Yingluck’s regular office is located, tried to gain access to the compound by hauling away protective barriers using pickup trucks. Their attempts were met with water cannons and tear gas, although some canisters were promptly thrown back at the security forces. More than 21,000 police and 1,000 soldiers have been deployed to protect 10 government installations from being occupied.

On Saturday, around 70,000 Red Shirts, who had gathered near Bangkok’s Rajamangala National Stadium to show support for the current administration, clashed with students, mainly antigovernment Yellow Shirts, emerging from neighboring Ramkhamhaeng University. About 8 p.m. local time, one person was killed when a shot was fired into the campus. Red Shirts had emerged from the stadium to support their comrades after several people were pulled from cars and beaten on the belief that they were Thaksin supporters.

I won’t claim to be well-versed enough in Thai politics to understand completely whats going on here, but, obviously, things are getting quite serious when people start dying. In the past, the King of Thailand whose reign has lasted longer than even that of Queen Elizabeth II, has been a stabilizing force in the nation at times like this but, so far at least, there doesn’t seem to be any sign that he’s interested in intervening at this point.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook