Thai street clashes leave 15 dead

Saturday, April 10, 2010 , Posted by TJ at 4:54 PM

Street battles between troops and anti-government protesters, marking Thailand's worst political violence in nearly 20 years, left 15 people dead, including a Japanese journalist, and about 650 wounded Saturday.

Witnesses said troops fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon at demonstrators after a number of them tried to breach an army compound in the Thai capital.

The clashes were the worst in month-long street protests during which supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra have demanded new elections.

Demonstrators reportedly fired back with grenades, gunfire and gasoline bombs made with cooking gas cylinders during running street battles.

The government's Erawan emergency centre said tallies from four Bangkok hospitals showed the death toll early Sunday had risen to at least 15 — four soldiers and 11 civilians.

Hospital official reports gunshot wounds

The Japanese camera operator who died, Hiro Muramoto, was covering the fighting for Reuters news agency in Bangkok's historical quarter. The agency reported he was shot in the chest and arrived at hospital without a pulse.

Pichaya Nakwatchara, director of BMA General Hospital, said most of those killed or wounded appeared to have been hit by hard objects on the head but some had gunshot wounds.

The army said any live rounds were fired only into the air, but confirmed that two of its soldiers had been shot. Government spokesman Panithan Wattanayakorn said more than 60 armed forces members had been injured.

The Red Shirt protesters are demanding that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolve parliament and call new elections. The group is made up of mainly poor and rural supporters of the former prime minister.

The Red Shirts say the ruling elite in the capital orchestrated the 2006 military coup that removed Thaksin from power.

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