Descent into chaos

Descent into chaos

THAILAND - Police fought anti-government protesters with tear gas and chemically treated water yesterday, as thousands of demonstrators attempted to force their way into key government offices.

Violence in Bangkok left at least three people dead and more than 50 others injured. Most of these casualties occurred at Ramkhamhaeng University, where thousands of people, mostly students, were gathering to protest against the government.

Another 46 people were injured by tear-gas fired by police to disperse protesters in about a dozen other sites.

Shots were fired into the university sporadically from Saturday night until yesterday morning. Terrified students, who were forced to stay overnight on the university campus, were yesterday evacuated by military personnel.

Red-shirt leaders also claimed casualties among government supporters gathering inside the adjacent Rajamangala Stadium and quickly announced an end to their pro-government rally following the violence. Red-shirt leader Natthawut Saikuar said the red-shirt rally would be ended to allow the government and police to concentrate on the anti-government protesters.

Key television stations broadcast or covered live yesterday's announcement by protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban following the protesters' seizure of six TV stations.

The protesters yesterday managed to take control of 10 out of 13 locations intended for occupation, except Government House, the Royal Thai Police headquarters and the Metropolitan Police Bureau, according to former Democrat MP Sathit Wongnongtaey, now a protest leader.

Police Maj-General Piya Uthayo, spokesman for the government's Centre for Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), told a press conference yesterday that police had resorted to firing tear gas at protesters on Chamai Maruchet Bridge, next to Government House, and near the Metropolitan Police Bureau headquarters. The decision to use tear gas was based on police security procedures, he said, adding that the two sites each had around 3,000 protesters.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who is also secretary-general of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), instructed state officials throughout the nation to stop working from today in a campaign to oust Yingluck's government and to "uproot the Thaksin regime".

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