Thailand’s pro-establishment “Yellow Shirts” called for the imposition of martial law to end mass anti-government protests by the rival “Red Shirts,” warning they may take action themselves.
The Reds were on alert for a crackdown by the security forces on their fortified camp in the heart of Bangkok, where tensions remained high after a grenade attack late Sunday on the house of a former premier injured 11 people.
26 people have died and almost 1,000 have been injured in the capital this month in Thailand’s bloodiest civil violence in almost two decades, despite a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas.
The Yellows, formally known as the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), have said they will take action to “protect the country” if authorities do not deal with the thousands of anti-government “Red Shirt” protesters.
Meanwhile there was no violence in the central Bangkok shopping area where protesters remained camped for a 24th day, but an explosion injured eight people late on Sunday near the home of former prime minister Banharn Silapa-archa, who is allied to the ruling coalition, police said.
A bomb disposal team rushed to the city’s financial district amid reports of another explosive device at the edge of Silom Road, where five grenade blasts last week left one person dead and more than 80 wounded. It was a false alarm.
Both sides in Thailand’s protracted political crisis have dug in following a breakdown of negotiations and a televised appearance on Sunday by the prime minister that offered no solution to the protracted crisis.
At least 26 people have been killed and nearly 1000 injured since the Red Shirts began occupying Bangkok’s commercial centre more than a month ago, closing down five-star hotels and shopping malls, paralysing daily life in the city and costing merchants millions of dollars a day.
Red Shirts gather in force
Thousands of Red Shirts camped in the protest enclave heeded a call by protest leaders to change into regular attire so they will not be visible if security forces move to clear the area and send them fleeing into city streets.
The strategy was also aimed at helping protesters coming in from rural provinces get past military and police checkpoints, one protest leader Kokaew Pikulthong told Thai Rath newspaper.
Meanwhile, a group of counterprotesters known as the Yellow Shirts have stepped up demands that authorities crack down on the demonstrators, implying they might take matters into their own hands if nothing is done soon.
Yellow Shirts counter protest
“The government has the responsibility to protect the people, but instead shows its weakness and inability to enforce the law,” said Suriyasai Katasila, a leader of the Yellow Shirts.
He also called on his supporters to join up with civic groups around the country to take action against the Red Shirts and their enclave in the city.
Red Shirt leaders have urged their supporters in provincial areas to confront security forces being brought in to help crack down on the protests.
Protests rage on
More than 1000 protesters set up a roadblock over the weekend along a major highway, deflating the tyres of 13 police vans and preventing police reinforcements from reaching Bangkok from the northeast province of Udon Thani, the government said.
Another 300 protesters set up roadblocks on the outskirts of the capital on Sunday afternoon to stop hundreds of other police from entering the city, police officials said.
Protesters in the Nong Kai province also tried to block police from heading to Bangkok, but the security forces changed their route, the government said.
The conflict has been characterised by some as class warfare.
The Red Shirts consist mainly of rural supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and pro-democracy activists who opposed the military coup that ousted him in 2006. They believe Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government – backed by the urban elite – is illegitimate because military pressure and complex legal maneuvering brought it to power.
Over the weekend, Abhisit rejected a compromise offer by the Red Shirts dashing hopes for a peaceful end to the standoff.