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Govt promises to look into fatal clashes

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Thailand: State of emergency
Govt promises to look into fatal clashes
State enterprise workers to go on strike

Thailand’s prime minister declared a state of emergency in Bangkok early Tuesday after street fighting overnight between supporters and opponents of the government left one man dead and dozens injured, the Associated Press reported.

At a press conference called at 9am at the Supreme Command, broadcast live on most local television channels, Prime Minister Samak vowed to full investigation into the fatal clashes near the Government House and take legal action against those behind the incidents.

The committee in charge of enforcement of emergency decree in Bangkok, headed by Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Anupong Paochinda, will take actions to remove anti-government protesters from the Government House, and supporters rallying not far from the seat of the government, Samak added.

In Thailand, a state of emergency allows the use of military forces in policing activities, and suspends some civil liberties.

The developments followed a threat by state workers to cut off water, electricity and phone service at government offices and disrupt flights of the national airline in support of protesters trying to bring down Prime Minister Samak.

A week of political tension exploded into violence early Tuesday morning between protesters seeking to topple Samak and mobs of his supporters, the Associated Press reported.

About 500 Samak supporters marched through the streets proclaiming they were going to retake the prime minister's office compound, which has been occupied since August 26 by the People's Alliance for Democracy.

The mob scuffled with police about halfway to the Government House complex, then battled with alliance members, both sides wielding sticks and clubs.

Police were unable to stop the fighting, which eased up only after army troops with riot gear - but no guns - reached the scene.

Although the troops were able to keep the antagonists apart, few supporters of either side dispersed, keeping the area a flashpoint for further trouble.

One person died from severe head injuries and four others were in serious condition, two with gunshot wounds, Dr. Petchapon Kumtonkitjakarn of the Erawan Medical Center told The Associated Press. He said 37 people were being treated for injuries at several hospitals.

On Monday, a coalition of 43 unions representing workers at state companies including water, electric, phone and the national airline said they would cut off services to the government starting Wednesday in support of the anti-government protests. They already were disrupting rail service and planned to cut back public bus transportation.

The labor federation said 200,000 members would stop work in support of the alliance of right-wing protesters that has occupied Samak's office for a week in its campaign to bring down the government.

The alliance claims the government is corrupt and too close to ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and recently fled to Britain to escape an array of corruption charges. The same group organized the massive anti-Thaksin demonstrations in 2006 that helped spark the bloodless coup.

The prime minister has repeatedly insisted he will not bow to pressure by resigning or dissolving parliament to call new elections.

Public bus workers will halt service on 80 percent of Bangkok's 3,800 buses, with the remainder running for free, a labour union source was quoted as telling the Associated Press said.

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