Violence in Bangkok prompts closure of US embassy in Thailand

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Friday, May 14, 2010

In this March 2010 photo, Red Shirt protesters rally through the streets of Bangkok.

A string of anti-government protests in Bangkok yesterday resulted in at least one fatality, numerous others injured, and the temporary closure of several foreign embassies in Thailand.

Philip Crowley, a spokesperson for the US State Department, announced early Thursday morning that the US embassy would be closed to the public due to its location near the violence. The embassy will be operating with a reduced staff and will not offer American citizens services until the conflict is resolved. The British and Dutch embassies in Thailand also halted their services after the Thai government said that it would seal off the area.

The leader of the protests was fugitive Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol, the radical leader of the militant Red Shirt movement. While giving interviews with foreign journalists, Sawasdipol appeared to have been shot in the head by a sniper. He was later taken to a local hospital for emergency treatment. One other protester, 25-year-old Chartchai Bualao, was killed in the incident, but it is still unclear as to who is responsible for the shooting.

Thai military forces moved in quickly to suppress the protesters just after the shooting, aiming to put down the opposition movement and secure the area in which they had barricaded themselves since early April. The Thai government declared a state of emergency for seventeen of the country's 76 provinces in the wake of the protests.

This incident is only the latest in an ongoing series of violent outbreaks among protesters and the Thai government. The violence is a result of the belief of the protesters that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva took power through illegitimate means with the support of the Thai military.