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Thai deputy PM quits after Bangkok clashes

THAILAND: Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh quit on Tuesday, saying he accepted responsibility for clashes between police and anti-government protesters that injured 69 people in Bangkok.

The resignation of the government’s top negotiator with the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) was a further blow to new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat’s efforts to defuse a four-month street campaign against the elected administration.

Chavalit said he had ordered police to use restraint against the 5,000 PAD supporters barricaded outside parliament to disrupt Somchai’s maiden policy speech.

But some protesters were badly hurt, including two men who had part of their legs blown off by exploding teargas canisters when police cleared a path into parliament for ministers.

“Since this action did not achieve what I planned, I want to show my responsibility for this operation,” Chavalit said in his resignation letter.

By late afternoon, the PAD controlled several city blocks around parliament and police headquarters, where riot police fired volleys of teargas at the crowd.

They lobbed firecrackers at police crouched behind shields. At one point, a city sewage truck drove past the building, spewing sewage at the entrance to the police HQ. “Overthrow the Thaksin regime.

Together we win or lose. We will know it today. We won’t give up,” PAD leader Anchalee Paireerak said.

The PAD, a coalition of businessmen, academics and activists, accuses new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat of being a political proxy for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, his brother-in-law, who was removed in a 2006 military coup.

The group argues Thai democracy has been undermined by billionaire Thaksin and his allies, who easily won the last three elections, and has called for a “new politics” that would include a proportion of appointed MPs.

Somchai, a soft-spoken former judge, has proved a harder target for the PAD than his predecessor, the abrasive Samak Sundaravej, who stepped down last month after being found guilty of a conflict of interest.

The demonstrators failed to stop Somchai’s speech, in which he called for national reconciliation to end a three-year crisis pitting Thaksin and his rural base against rivals in the royalist and military establishment believed to be backing the PAD.

 

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