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Travellers warned as fear of violence grows in Bangkok


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Travellers warned as fear of violence grows in Bangkok

BEN DOHERTY

March 11, 2010

 

BANGKOK: Australians have been warned about travelling to Bangkok this weekend, as fears grow that huge anti-government protests will turn violent.

 

The Thai government has invoked the Internal Security Act, in force from this morning until March 23, restricting movement around Bangkok and giving police and soldiers sweeping powers to detain protesters and shut down parts of the city.

 

The Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, having cancelled a visit to Australia this weekend, is considering moving to a safe house for the duration of the protests, while anti-government ''red shirt'' protesters have not ruled out seizing control of Bangkok's international airport, as happened during demonstrations two years ago.

 

Police and soldiers are guarding the airport, as well as key intersections and train stations, while barricades and razor-wire fences are being erected outside key government buildings.

 

Fears the rallies may turn violent have been fuelled this week by the theft of a cache of weapons, including rifles, ammunition and grenades, from an army base in Thailand's south.

 

Intelligence reports, quoted by Mr Abhisit, indicate the possibility of acts of sabotage and of troops and police joining protesters in attacking government targets.

 

The protesters, marching under the banner of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship and loyal to the ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, are holding rallies in regional areas this week. Thaksin lives in exile after being convicted in absentia of corruption.

 

From tomorrow, the demonstrators will begin massing on the outskirts of Bangkok before moving to the old part of the city for mass protests on Saturday and Sunday, calling for the dissolution of Parliament and for fresh elections to be held.

 

The government is threatening to use troops and police to stop demonstrators reaching Bangkok, but they say that if necessary they will travel by boat along the Chao Praya River to reach Bangkok.

 

Australia yesterday issued a travel advisory.

 

''We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution because of the high threat of terrorist attack and because of political instability in Thailand,'' it said.

 

''There is a strong possibility of violence and civil unrest … particularly in Bangkok, during March. Australians should avoid any prominent buildings associated with the Thai government, such as Government House, the Parliament building, the Supreme Court and military installations. Grenade attacks, including against banks, have occurred in the past month and further attacks are possible over the coming weeks.''

 

 

http://www.smh.com.au/world/travellers-warned-as-fear-of-violence-grows-in-bangkok-20100310-pzdr.html

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