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Stage set for a prolonged crisis

 
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October 9, 2008

Thailand Political Stalemate:
Stage set for a prolonged crisis  

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat reassured diplomats Wednesday that he was still in command as anti-government protesters vowed to avenge those killed and injured in clashes with the police, setting a stage for a prolonged crisis.

On Wednesday morning, Somchai met with foreign diplomats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reported the Associated Press.

"My government is committed to ensuring confidence in our political system," Somchai said, according to a text of his remarks released by the ministry. "We will resolve domestic problems through the democratic process."

"My government is still able to run the country," Somchai was quoted as telling reporters before leaving in a hurry apparently due to possible threats of protesters blocking his exit.


Soldiers maintained an uneasy calm in Bangkok a day after two people died and more than 400 were injured as police attempted to break up protests that degenerated into Thailand's worst political violence in more than a decade. Hundreds of workers swept the streets Wednesday around Parliament that were littered with burned-out cars and debris from the rioting.

While each side accused the other of using excess force, many pointed to the grievous wounds suffered by several demonstrators, including four who lost parts of their legs, as evidence that the police used heavy weapons. Police said they only used tear gas, and said they believed some demonstrators were hurt by explosives they themselves were carrying.

Protesters rallied in their stronghold at the compound of the prime minister's office, which they have occupied since August 26.

The protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy say Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat is a pawn of ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006 by military leaders who accused him of corruption. He who now lives in exile. Somchai is his brother-in-law.

Tuesday's fighting began when hundreds of police set out to clear away demonstrators who were blockading parliament to keep Somchai from delivering a key policy speech.

Meanwhile, the opposition Democrat Party on Wednesday said they plan to file a criminal lawsuit against the prime minister, reported Thai News Agency. The opposition charged the government of using unnecessary violence in suppressing chaos.

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