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13 Apr, 2009 14:46

Bangkok turns into warzone

Violence is escalating in the Thai capital Bangkok, as the army clashes with anti-government protestors.

The showdown has turned into an hours-long battle. After the protestors withdrew to areas around the Prime Minister's office, it took the army more than 10 hours to clear key areas of the city.

Soldiers were firing shots, and using tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protesters.

Some of the worst clashes were seen at a major intersection in the city, where more than 70 people were injured, some by gunshots.

The turmoil comes amid the state of emergency declared by the current government on Sunday. Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva imposed an emergency decree in Bangkok and surrounding areas, and banned gatherings of more than five people.

The protesters are supporters of Thailand's ex-leader Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted by a military coup in 2006. Living in exile to avoid a two-year jail term for abuse of authority, Thaksin stoked up his followers by phone on Sunday, the Bangkok Post reports:

“You don’t have to be frightened of this state of emergency", Shinawatra encouraged his supporters.

The violence has raised fears that the mayhem will result in the military trying to oust current prime minister Vejjajiva .

But RT's media analyst and Asia correspondent Evgeny Belenky says there is a chance for the current government to restore stability:

“The current government, which was appointed, might be playing a role of buffer or chemical catalyst. And probably it will finally calm down both sides, and at last there will be an election that will bring someone who will satisfy both sides", Belenky suggests.