Thai troops on Bangkok streets to protect financial hub

Monday, April 19, 2010

Agence France-Presse

BANGKOK, Thailand—Hundreds of Thai troops, many of them armed, were deployed on the streets of Bangkok early Monday to protect the city's financial heart from anti-government rallies, witnesses said.

AFP reporters saw military and riot police station themselves in the central financial district, known as Silom, close to the Reds' current rally base in the capital's commercial heartland.

"There are several units currently armed to prevent themselves from attacks from terrorists who are hiding among protesters," said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.

A soldier, asking not to be named, said the troops were there to block the Reds if they came up Silom Road. "We will not attack them, we are blocking them," he told AFP.

The security personnel had stacked uncoiled barbed wire at the roadside. Many were seen armed with assault rifles and shotguns while some had only riot shields.

The Reds began their demonstration demanding immediate elections more than a month ago, and it remained largely peaceful until a failed army crackdown nine days ago led to clashes that left 25 people dead and more than 800 injured.

The government has asked the police's special investigation unit to probe the bloodshed, blaming "terrorists" for inciting violence.

Embattled Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva handed broader powers to his army chief Anupong Paojinda Friday after a bungled operation to arrest senior protesters.


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