There have been disturbances in Bangkok today as police clashed with anti-government protesters in front of the parliament building. Just hours before new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat was due to give his inaugural speech, an estimated 5,000 PAD anti-government protesters marched from the site they have been occupying at nearby Government House. As the protesters attempted to seal off the parliament building with barricades of tyres and barbed wire, police responded with tear gas. Dozens have been hurt with reports that at least 2 protesters have been seriously injured with loss of limbs and one policeman has been attacked with an iron bar which has penetrated his lung. The clashes erupted this morning and again this afternoon as the protesters who had earlier dispersed then regrouped.
It’s been another extraordinary and sad day in Bangkok. As the demonstrators laid siege to parliament, MPs, officials and journalists were locked inside the building as protesters then cut off water and electricity supplies. The Thai prime minister escaped the building via a back entrance and use of a ladder to climb over a fence into the neighbouring compound at Vimanmek Palace. The deputy prime minister has handed in his resignation for his part in the way the police operation was handled. Meanwhile, the army have again stated that the continuing protests should be dealt with by the police and that the military will not intervene unless asked to do so. For their part, the police defended the use of tear gas saying, ‘it was absolutely necessary.’
The anti-government protesters have occupied the grounds of Government House for weeks and temporary government offices have been set up at Don Muang airport. Although former PM Samak was forced out of office, the PAD group have already said that they will not rest until the entire government has been overthrown. At the weekend, two prominent PAD leaders were arrested including Chamlong Srimuang and it is believed this may have been part of the reason for today’s show of strength by the demonstrators.