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No end in sight

Violent clashes in Bangkok between the army and red-shirt protesters could get worse

DAYS of deadly street battles between Thai security forces and red-shirt protesters showed no sign of abating on Sunday May 16th. Like the bonfires of fuel-soaked tyres that they set alight, the rage that ignites the roaming gangs of protesters and hoodlums burns bright. And soldiers stand guard at street junctions where signs read “live-fire zone”. At least 35 people have died since Thursday, some reportedly cut down by army snipers hiding in the tower blocks that once symbolised Thailand’s economic promise.

What lies ahead could be much worse. Thousands of protesters, many of them bussed in from the countryside, are sleeping in the shadows of luxury hotels and shopping malls. Many are loyal to a former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was kicked out in a 2006 coup. They have occupied a large area of central Bangkok for the past month to force the prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, to dissolve parliament and hold new elections. The government, businesses and many Bangkok residents want the red shirts out. Threats and emergency laws have not worked. Peace talks appeared to bear fruit, but fell apart quickly. …

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