Clashes kill 22, Thai PM says no ‘turning back’

Thailand’s PM struck a defiant tone on Saturday on national television, saying his government will not bow to demonstrators demanding his resignation.

Explosions and street fighting have killed 22 people and wounded more than 170 since the government attempted on Thursday to seal off one-square-mile zone which the Red Shirt protesters have occupied in one of the capital’s most upscale areas. In his first comments since the latest violence erupted, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva defended the Army’s actions. “The government must move forward. We cannot retreat because we are doing things that will benefit the entire country,” he said. “It’s crucial we cannot turn back and allow those who violate the law and establish armed militants to intimidate the government,” he said in a nationally televised address. He said that, despite his sadness over a “large number” of deaths in the operation which began on Thursday night, the containment policy would be continued in Bangkok.
The plan is “to return normalcy with minimum loss” to the Thai capital, he said.
The problem is some “terrorists” have infiltrated the Red Shirt protesters.
“I insist that if we want to see an end to the loss of life, the only way is to have the protesters end their protest,” he said. The demonstrators claim Mr Abhisit’s coalition government came to power through manipulation of the courts and the backing of the powerful military, and that it is indifferent to the poor. Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over “the rapidly mounting tensions and violence”.
“He strongly encourages both sides to urgently return to dialogue in order to de-escalate the situation and resolve matters peacefully,” Mr Ban’s spokesman said in a statement. —AP,AFP

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