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Thai PM: Protests isolated in capital commercial hub

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Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will hold a special Cabinet meeting today after he said government measures have helped contain protests from spreading outside of Bangkok’s commercial center, reported the Bloomberg News.

The government has worked to stop demonstrators from publicising their rallies and setting up illegal checkpoints, Abhisit said. Security officials who fail in their duties will be transferred, he said.

“You can see that protesters haven’t rallied to other areas,” the prime minister said in a weekly television address. “This has helped the government to concentrate on Ratchaprasong,” he said, referring to the area of shopping malls and office buildings the group has occupied for 29 days.

Protesters have defied emergency rule since April 7, clashing with troops and disrupting mass transit lines to pressure Abhisit into calling a general election. The group has cordoned off an area roughly the size of New York’s Central Park with barricades of rubber tires and bamboo sticks.

Security forces fired rubber bullets and live rounds on April 28 to prevent the group from rallying support in other areas of the capital. One soldier was killed, a death that is under investigation.

The cabinet will discuss laws to help security forces “perform their duty in the area efficiently,” Abhisit said. Martial law is not necessary to end the protests, he said.

Abhisit ordered police to take back part of a road in front of a hospital where patients were evacuated two days ago after demonstrators stormed the building, the Bangkok Post reported, citing army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

Demonstration leaders apologised for entering the hospital on the outskirts of their protest site, saying that the incident may cost them support. The group moved back its barricade to allow one lane of traffic to access the hospital.

A failed attempt to clear demonstrators on April 10 killed 25 people and wounded more than 800 others. One person died in an April 22 grenade attack on an elevated train.

“The government must recognize that a violent crackdown would severely damage them and likely lead to more conflict,” the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based policy research group, said in an April 30 report that called for outside parties to help facilitate a compromise.

The Thai political system has broken down and seems incapable of pulling the country back from the brink of widespread conflict, it said. The stand-off in the streets of Bangkok between the government and Red Shirt protesters is worsening and could deteriorate into an “undeclared civil war,” according to the report.


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