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Red Shirts Ready to Stop, Media Told; Amnesty Accuses Army of 'Reckless Lethal Force'

Red Shirts Ready to Stop, Media Told; Amnesty Accuses Army of 'Reckless Lethal Force'

Tuesday, May 18, 2010
UPDATE

AT 8.30pm, red shirt leaders told Bangkok media they were preparing to stop fighting and talk to the government, but the government needed to stop fighting, too.

AMNESTY International has accused the Thai army of human rights abuses, including the shooting deaths of two medics in white uniforms ''with visible red crosses'' and a 17-year-old boy.

The London-based rights group says the army is employing ''reckless use of lethal force'' in containing Bangkok street protests that have so far left 38 dead and 279 injured.

''Eyewitness accounts and video recordings show clearly that the military is firing live rounds at unarmed people who pose no threat whatsoever to the soldiers or to others,'' Amnesty's Thailand specialist Benjamin Zawacki told the AFP news agency.

At 4.30pm government spokesmen in a nationally televised broadcast accused the red protesters of using the presence of elderly supporters and women and children to prevent army action.

They thanked senators for offering to mediate the confrontation but told their national audience that the government had offered to talk several times in the past without success, even suggesting a reconciliation road map.

The only way talks could resume now is after the reds abandon their protest, the spokesmen said.

In response, reds said they would give up if the army withdrew from their position surrounding the red protest area. Soldiers have to pull back first because protesters are not ready to be killed by troops, one spokesperson said.

Extra holidays on Monday and Tuesday have been extended to Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as the soldiers tighten their clamp on supplies and visitors to the red encampment.

The Governor of Phuket, Wichai Praisa-ngob, told Phuketwan today that he would like to see talks between both sides as soon as possible to negotiate a settlement.

Despite the island's distance from the capital and the violence, Phuket has been severely affected by travel warnings advising people not to visit Thailand.

Phuket remains peaceful and tourists continue to enjoy their holidays, just as they always have.

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