Armor, troops on streets; gunfire in scuffle after PM declares emergency

April 13, 2009 11:39 pm 

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BANGKOK, April 12 — Armored military vehicles and soldiers have been deployed at 50 key locations in the capital as anti-government protests turn more violent and spread into several areas of Bangkok following the prime minister’s imposition of a State of Emergency.

Gunfire from unidentified sources was heard during a scuffle as the prime minister’s car left the Ministry of Interior Sunday afternoon.

Television footage showed protesters smashing the prime minister's car with clubs, iron bars, rocks, flower pots and bottles forcing the driver to take evasive action in the compound as protesters blocked all entrances. The car's window was shattered.

Army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the military's presence is meant to restore order, after red-shirted anti-government protesters stormed into the ministry compound, and local television showed pictures of the mob armed with poles and paving slabs smashing a car they believed carried the prime minister.

However, Niphon Prompan, the premier's secretary-general, was seriously hurt in the incident and being detained by the protesters, according to Supachai Jaisamut, interior ministry spokesman.

Mr. Abhisit escaped unharmed and he later told reporters that he was safe but one of his security guards was nabbed by the protesters.

When the prime minister departed the interior ministry, a driver in another car was seriously injured after being beaten by the protesters.

He said he had not fired at the protesters but the gunshot was heard after the protesters tried to grab a gun from him.

Another security officer was handcuffed by the protesters and was taken to the anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) encampment at Government House.

Mr. Abhisit urged the protesters to release his man and allow him to seek treatment at hospital.

The premier Sunday afternoon declared a State of Emergency in the capital and five neighboring provinces.

Effective immediately, the state of emergency is imposed in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom and Ayutthaya provinces because a group of people are inciting unrest.

It will be implemented by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, Mr. Abhisit said.

He said the government deemed it necessary to declare the state of emergency before the situation worsen.

Under the order, gatherings of more than five people are prohibited, the press is not allowed to present news reports which could incite worry among to the public. The order also allows the public to be evacuated from areas considered to be risky. (PNA/TNA)

DCT/rsm

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