Updated 2:01pm, 14 April 2009
BANGKOK, 14 April 2009:Leaders of the anti-government protesters who turned the streets of Bangkok into a war zone and caused the recent Asean +6 Summit in Pattaya to be cancelled, have agreed to end their rally and disperse from the Government House.
Natawut Saikua told thousands of supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra at the Government House today that the red shirters would leave the rally site peaceful.
“We have agreed to end our rally to protect the lives of our supporters. But we will come and we will continue to fight for democracy,” he said, as thousands of soldiers surrounded the rally site.
Two people were killed and close to 100 injured in running battles between the protesters, soldiers and local residents in the capital yesterday.
Natawut said that although they failed to achieve victory in their struggle to force Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to resign, at least the protest led by the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (DAAD) managed to show the world that the Thai people were fed-up with Privy Councillor President and former prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda.
After a bloody 13 April that almost plunged the country into a civil war, calm returned to Bangkok today, but tension remained high as hundreds of soldiers surrounded the remaining protesters at Government House.
Bangkok was turned into a war zone yesterday after supporters of Thaksin battled with fully armed troops in the street throughout the day.
Dozens of buses seized by the protesters were set ablaze. The Nation newspaper ran a headline, Songkran Inferno, referring to yesterday’s unexpected start to the Thai New Year, while some newspapers labelled them as street terrorists.
Protest leader Jatuporn Phromphan had earlier told his supporters that they would remain at the Government House today to avoid clashes with soldiers and other civilians. The authorities have closed all roads leading to the seat of the country’s administration to cut off supply of food and other amenities.
The protesters had lined up gas cylinders to prevent the soldiers from storming the protest site which the red army has laid siege to since 26 March.
Soldiers also put up barbed wire along roads leading to the Victory Monument, which was taken back from the rioters after a day-long street battle, while workers from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration cleaned up the area.
Tension has been running high since 8 April when over 100,000 people turned up for a massive rally to support Thaksin. Three days later a smaller crowd of 1,000 overpowered thousands of police and soldiers to storm the venue of the Asean Summit and force its cancellation.
On Sunday, embattled Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency in the capital and five other surrounding provinces, but still refused to bow to the protesters’ demand to resign or dissolve parliament.
General Chaisit Shinawatra, a former supreme commander and cousin of Thaksin, has denied any involvement in yesterday’s incident where two LPG tankers were hijacked by protesters and placed near flats to stop the soldiers from firing at the red-shirt group. He is chairperson of Siam Gas, owner of the tankers. — Bernama