Women and children were yesterday being evacuated from Bangkok's deadly protest zone by Red Cross workers after a weekend of violence that left 25 people dead.
Thai authorities have brought in a curfew and also ordered schools to be closed from today (Monday) as anti-government Red Shirt protesters continue to battle troops in the streets of the capital.
Over the past four days, the capital has been the scene of violent clashes between protesters and soldiers triggered on Thursday when the Army started forming a cordon around the protesters’ encampment and a sniper shot and seriously wounded Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol, the Red Shirts’ military adviser.
Amid rising death toll and violence, with 200 people injured in the past four days, the government sent the Red Cross into the protest zone to evacuate the vulnerable, namely women, children and older people.
As protesters torched a barricade of tyres, Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, an army spokesman, said: “There will be a curfew announcement so that police and soldiers can differentiate people from terrorists.” The curfew would ban people from entering or leaving certain areas between 11pm and 5am. And anyone who breaks it risks a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
In his weekly television address, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the army operation to quell protests was the best solution to end the ongoing uprising. "We cannot retreat now," Mr Abhisit added.
But a Red Shirt protesters’ leader has called for Thailand's king to step in, saying he was the "only hope" for an end to the crisis which started two months ago. "As people in this country, we would like his kindness," Jatuporn Prompan told press, in the city’s central business district. "I believe Thais will feel the same, that His Majesty is our only hope."
The protesters say the Prime Minister claimed his post illegitimately, and want him to resign. And despite the curfew and rising violence many are staying put. We are not frightened,” said Jiyaporn Satthanee, 43, a farmer from Yasothon, a rice-growing province in Thailand’s impoverished northeast. She had her children, aged 11 and 9, with her. “We will stay or go together,” she told The Sunday Times.
The Red Shirt general shot in the head on Thursday during a press interview is in a worsening condition, according to hospital officials. Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol, 58, was unconscious and thought to have a slim chance of recovery when he was rushed to hospital.