After a month of tense build-up, thousands of “red shirt” protesters and Thai security forces came to deadly clashes on Saturday, with chaotic scenes of streets filled with tear gas and the sounds of gunfire and explosions continuing into the night.
Ten people have been killed in the clashes and 500 injured according, to hospital officials, AP reported. Among the dead are Thai soldiers, civilians and one Japanese journalist.
Thai soldiers used rubber bullets and tear gas trying to disperse protesters at their main protests sites in the Thai capital, while protesters reportedly responded by throwing Molotov cocktails.
The eruption occurred a day after protesters had forced their way past security forces at an opposition television station that security forces had closed down.
Last week, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had declared a state of emergency in an attempt to restore order in the country. His decision came after thousands of protesters marched on parliament on Wednesday, some bursting into the building, forcing members of parliament and ministers to flee.
The protesters, commonly referred to as “red shirts,” have been demonstrating in the capital for a month demanding the government to resign and call new elections. They are loyal to former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 after six years in power.
An army spokesperson who appeared on national television on Saturday evening said that security forces had retreated and encouraged the protesters to do the same. Protest leaders have also now called on demonstrators to pull back. Throughout the month of protests, the "red shirts" have insisted they will keep the demonstrations peaceful.