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Fire in a Bangkok street on Monday as troops move in

Red Shirts Retreat: Bangkok Protest Abandoned

Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Phuketwan Update

THE RED SHIRTS are to give up their protest at Government House in Bangkok after an occupation lasting 18 days, the leadership announced today. Phuketwan reporter Shanya Phattrasaya said there was concern ''red shirts will die'' if the protest continued. Red shirt leaders were planning to hand themselves in to police.

Phuketwan Original Report

PROTESTS in Bangkok appeared to be limited today with red-shirts on the streets in drastically reduced numbers amid hope of a rapid return to normal.

Despite media reports of a capital dotted with ''war zones,'' Phuketwan reporter Shanya Phattrasaya in Bangkok said the government appeared to have won the civil war of words, which is what it really was, and isolated physical clashes.

The closest the Thai capital came to anything approaching a battle zone loomed yesterday evening, when two local residents were killed in a skirmish with red-shirt protesters.

The residents wanted the red-shirts to leave their neighborhood, a sentiment repeated by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in a late-night television speech.

''We are confident that we are in control of the situation,'' he told Thailand after a day that saw troops clear the streets of about 20,000 protesters, sometimes using tear gas and firing live rounds into the air.

The two deaths came after almost 100 were wounded or injured throughout a day that saw troops fan out through the city, clearing the streets, with protesters commandeering 50 buses and using them as barriers.

Unless the red-shirts regroup after the long Songkran New Year holiday ends on Thursday, the worst appears to be over.

Disgraced former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, having told the BBC that he actually meant ''peaceful revolution'' not a real revolution in urging the red shirts to take to the streets, may have lost his last chance to return in triumph to Thailand.

The current government has held on firmly since the red-shirts destroyed the country's international ''land of smiles'' reputation by invading a Pattaya resort and preventing an important Asean summit of 16 national leaders from taking place.

Precautions have been taken to secure vital installations, including airports, but tourists were coming and going without problems today despite increased travel warnings.

Today the US added its powerful voice, condemning ''unacceptable violence by the protesters,'' and urging its citizens to be cautious.

Government House remains the protesters' prime Bangkok stronghold, but that is considered to be a legitimate protest.

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