Finger-pointing, steadfast determination on both sides of Thai conflict

Finger-pointing, steadfast determination on both sides of Thai conflict

Bangkok : Thailand | Oct 08, 2008 at 5:32 PM PDT
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A day after violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters left hundreds injured and two dead in Bangkok, blame was laid by each side.

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, while striking a conciliatory tone, held firm in his belief that Parliament would not be dissolved, while the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) vowed to continue its protests.

There was also blame-laying for the violence.

The father of one of the fatal victims of the violence said his 25-year-old daughter Angkana Radapbanyavuth said she was unarmed, while police asserted that the woman had been carrying a homemade bomb.

Police also said only tear gas was used to disperse the crowds, in answer to accusations that officers had used "mysterious explosive devices", which caused at least eight protesters to have limbs amputated.

There was also video footage of some protesters wielding clubs and firearms, as well as reports of sharpened flagpoles being used against the police.

The Public Health Ministry said 455 people were injured in Tuesday's clashes, including 20 police, some suffering gunshot wounds. Eighty-four people remained hospitalized.

Meeting with foreign diplomats, Prime Minister Somchai said the government "was sorry about what happened .. and that they did not want to see violence or bloodshed".

"Our police forces have acted under the framework of the law," Somchai was quoted as telling a meeting of 67 foreign ambassadors. "We will resolve the domestic problems through the democratic process ... Thailand is a resilient society and has been able to weather political storms in the past with great strength."

PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul vowed to keep on his long-running protest, and make sure PAD's views were known. "Somchai planned to tell his side of story to diplomats from 80 countries at a meeting today but not all of them were present. I'll do my job by providing all the facts in CDs which will be sent to them soon," Sonthi was quoted as saying.

The opposition Democrat Party has filed a police complaint against Somchai, saying Somchai ordered the crackdown on the protesters who were surround ing Parliament.

Peace advocates say both sides played a part in the violence, and should own up to the responsibility.

Analysts have laid out a number of scenarios for the future of the conflict.

One could be the military getting involved, but which side would the generals choose? As of Wednesday, there were troops on some streets in the protest areas, helping to keep the peace. But Royal Thai Army Chief General Anupong Paochinda has been wary of the military getting involved in the conflict.

Another scenario could see the monarchy getting involved. Her Majesty Queen Sirikit has donated 300,000 baht to hospitals for the treatment of the injured protesters, which PAD has trumpeted as a Royal endorsement of their cause. However, HM the Queen has also given 200,000 baht to the police hospital for treatment of injured officers.

However, the 80-year-old monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, has yet to make a public statement about the political crisis.

Economically, analysts say, the instability will compound problems for Thailand in the midst of the global financial crisis, making investors wary, and tourists afraid to visit, even though the protests have little effect on most ordinary travellers.

wisekwai is based in Bangkok, Krung Thep, Thailand, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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