วันจันทร์ที่ 19 เมษายน พ.ศ. 2553
Troops deployed to prevent reds from entering financial district
Hundreds of troops poured into central Bangkok to protect Bangkok's financial hub on Monday, raising the stakes in the standoff between the government and red-shirt protesters.
Military and riot police, many of them with weapons, were seen deployed in Silom financial district early in the morning, close to the reds' current rally base around Ratchaprasong intersection.
"There are several units currently armed to defend themselves from attacks by terrorists who are hiding among the protesters," acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.
Some troops hunkered down with their weapons on overpasses above Silom's major thoroughfare, while others napped on the sidewalk after the deployment which took place in the early hours of the morning.
Security personnel had stacked uncoiled barbed wire at the roadside. Many were seen armed with assault rifles and shotguns while some had only riot shields.
Mr Panitan would not comment on whether a crackdown was imminent against the protesters, who are demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his government.
"The plan to retake the area remains but operational units will analyse how and when to avoid confrontation and clashes," he said.
Troops deployed to protect high-rise buildings in Silom area and risk locations were armed, but those near the protesters would not carry weapons, he said.
A soldier, asking not to be named, said they were there to block the reds if they came up Silom Road. "We will not attack them, we are blocking them," he said.
The deployment was the first by the military on the tense streets of Bangkok since a failed crackdown on the anti-government protesters nine days ago that left 25 people dead and more than 800 injured.
Hours after the troops were seen on Silom, red-shirt leader Weng Tojirakarn said protesters will not mobilise to the financial area because they were aware that soldiers would use full force to protect the area.
He said the protesters would continue to rally at their base at Ratchaprasong intersection until the government dissolves the lower House.
The protesters will not disperse, he said.
Mr Weng said the red-shirts would instead go to the UN office to ask for justice in the April 10 clashes between troops and protesters, which resulted in the deaths of 25 people and left more than 800 injured.
They would also ask UN officials to observe the anti-government rally at Ratchaprasong area, he said.
St Joseph's Convent, located in a small side street off Silom Road, announced the school would close for two days -- Monday and Tuesday.
This photo gallery shows soldiers deployed early Monday to protect the Silom financial district. (Photos by Sarot Meksophawannakul)