| GEO World|
| Thai soldier killed in anti-govt protest|
| Updated at: 0640 PST, Thursday, April 29, 2010|
BANGKOK: Thai security forces stopped anti- government protesters from rallying north of the capital in clashes that killed one soldier, raising tensions in a seven- week standoff that has paralyzed Bangkok’s commercial center.
One soldier was shot dead and two were injured in the skirmish, police official Worapong Chiewprecha said in a televised briefing last night. Seventeen protesters were also wounded after authorities opened fire to prevent a convoy of about 5,000 people from traveling to a fresh-food market north of Bangkok, he said.
The incident may add pressure on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to scatter demonstrators who have disrupted businesses and irked residents by occupying a district since April 3. The country’s worst political violence in 18 years has now resulted in the deaths of 27 people this month.
“The situation has been aggravated to the point where the government has to do something, either disperse them or negotiate,” said Somjai Phagaphasvivat, a lecturer at Bangkok’s Thammasat University. “The protesters are on the defensive and they know the cost of resistance is getting higher every day.”
Thailand’s SET index fell 1.6 percent as overseas investors posted their biggest net selling in five months, making it Asia’s second-worst performer in April after the benchmark in Shanghai. Thai stocks have risen 2 percent for the year compared with a 4.1 percent gain for the MSCI Asia Pacific Index.
Security forces arrested 14 protesters and found a bag with 62 M-79 grenades left by another demonstrator who escaped, Anon Jarayapan, an air force commander, said in a televised broadcast. The clash showed the government’s aim “to control any law- breaking,” spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn told reporters.
Authorities ordered the closure of roads around the main protest site to isolate the group, the Bangkok Post reported, citing unidentified officials. Police will stop people and weapons from getting to the site, though supplies will be allowed to pass, the newspaper said.
A grenade attack last week on an elevated train line station next to the protest site left one person dead, and 25 died in an army crackdown on April 10. The government and protesters blame each other for the casualties.
Soldiers carrying rifles were stationed yesterday on Silom and Sukhumvit roads, Bangkok business arteries that connect with the cordoned-off protest site. Water cannon trucks and riot police are also positioned in the area.