Thailand Declares State of Emergency

Thailand's prime minister declared a state of emergency in the capital Tuesday after street fighting overnight between opponents and supporters of the government left one man dead and dozens of people injured.


The announcement, broadcast on all Thai television stations at 7 a.m., said Army Commander Gen. Anupong Paochinda was in charge of peacekeeping under the state of emergency decreed for Bangkok by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

The emergency suspends many civil liberties and allows the military to police the city.

Earlier Tuesday, a week of political tension burst into violence as Samak supporters clashed with People's Alliance for Democracy protesters who are demanding his resignation and have occupied the grounds of his office compound for a week.

Bands of young men armed with sticks, slingshots and other makeshift weapons chased each other down the boulevards of Bangkok, brutally beating those they managed to catch. Gunshots also were fired, with reporters seeing at least one man aiming and firing a pistol at a group of people.

One person died from severe head injuries and four others were in serious condition, two with gunshot wounds, Dr. Petchapon Kumtonkitjakarn of the Erawan Medical Center told The Associated Press. He said 38 people were being treated for injuries at several hospitals.

Police were unable to stop the Tuesday morning fighting, which eased up only after army troops with riot gear -- but no guns -- were dispatched to the scene.

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The violence heightens a national crisis brought on when the People's Alliance for Democracy occupied the prime minister's office compound Aug. 26 and vowed to hold it until Samak stepped down.

The alliance claims the government is corrupt and too close to ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and recently fled to Britain to escape an array of corruption charges. The same group organized the massive anti-Thaksin demonstrations in 2006 that helped spark the bloodless coup.

TV stations announced the state of emergency with an unidentified voice reading the decree on behalf of Samak while its text was displayed on the screen.

The provisions, which took about 15 minutes to read, included a ban on gatherings of more than five people, a ban on media dissemination of news likely to panic the public or instigate violence, and mandates for security officials to clear public roads, buildings and other areas.

The terms would allow the military to immediately oust the protesters occupying the prime minister's premises, and could be seen as giving them the power to shut down a satellite TV station operated by one of the protest leaders.

The protest group has defied police and court orders since last week to evacuate the government facility and clear nearby public roads.