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Thai protesters and residents clash, 2 dead

ANTI-GOVERNMENT demonstrators vowing a "final stand" unless the government resigns fought bloody street battles with troops yesterday, then clashed with residents angry about the disruptions, killing two people.

During the day, troops drove back rampaging protesters with warning shots from automatic weapons, and by nightfall clashes that gripped several parts of the city, wounding 113 people, had ebbed. But as the demonstrators tried to make their way back to their base, deadly fighting erupted between them and residents.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva praised the efforts of security forces, saying they used "soft means" and "prevented as much damage as possible," though ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra - the man most protesters consider their leader - accused the military of covering up the number of people killed in the day's battles.

Abhisit said the news that two people had been killed and 12 wounded in a gunbattle between protesters and residents at Nang Lerng market was "a regrettable incident." But he said that "with the cooperation of the public, I believe success (in restoring peace) is near."

The protestors from early this morning have placed several tanker trucks fueled by Natural Gas for Vehicles gas around their main site at the Government House in capital Bangkok to prevent troops from advancing to disperse them.

Meanwhile, road checkpoints near the rally site at the Government House have been set up by police and troops, the website by The Nation newspaper reported.

And, the security staffs at the checkpoints have examined all passers-by and those who want to join the anti-government rally, the website said.

The protestors, also known as the red-shirted people, have been led by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), from late yesterday have returned to protest at their main venue at the Government House after several rounds of the Thai army crackdown on the protestors, who staged rallies at many key intersections in center Bangkok.

In a related development, UDD core leader Jatuporn Phromphan announced at the Government House the protestors would not be moving anywhere as it might be dangerous to the members, the website by Bangkok Post reported.

Jatuporn told his supporters the troops have blocked all roads leading to the main rally's venue in a bid to prevent red-shirted people upcountry from reinforcing them the Government House.

However, Jatuporn said the UDD group might need to break through the military blockades, if their food supply was cut off.

Political tensions have simmered since 2006 when Thaksin was ousted by a military coup amid accusations of corruption and abuse of power. He remains popular in the impoverished countryside for his populist policies.

Since then, political tensions have run high between his supporters, known as "red shirts," and the so-called "yellow shirts," a mix of royalists, academics, professionals and retired military who oppose the former prime minister.


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