At least eight people have been killed as Thai security forces declared a “live firing zone” in downtown Bangkok on Saturday following days of deadly clashes with anti-government protesters. Two days of street battles between soldiers and anti-government “Red Shirts” have left 25 people dead, all civilians, and 172 wounded.
Thailand’s prime minister defended the deadly army crackdown, saying there was no turning back as clashes raged on. “The government must move forward. We cannot retreat because we are doing things that will benefit the entire country,” Abhisit Vejjajiva said in a national broadcast, striking a defiant tone that made it clear he was in no mood for a compromise.
The demonstrators Saturday accused government snipers of picking people off with head shots. The army says it is not shooting to kill, but protesters crawled along sidewalks to slowly drag away bodies of three people near the city’s Victory Monument traffic circle in the Ratchaprarop area Saturday. They accused army snipers of shooting all three in the head.
The escalating unrest prompted the U.S. Embassy to issue a travel warning Saturday advising Americans to defer travel to Bangkok. Several other western embassies, including the UK, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands have also advised against travel to Bangkok.
One Canadian and one Thai journalist were shot. A government spokesman said troops had come under attack and “had no choice but to respond”, adding that they were authorized to use live rounds in self-defense, for warning shots or against armed protesters.