Bangkok: Thailand`s long-silent Yellow Shirt activists demanded military action against anti-government Red Shirt protesters on Thursday and an end to "anarchy" in the capital, a day after clashes turned a busy expressway into a deadly battle zone.
The re-emergence of the Yellow Shirts — best known for shutting Bangkok`s airports for a week in 2008 — added to the volatility on the streets of the Thai capital, where a seven-week standoff has killed at least 27 people and wounded nearly 1,000.
Rallies were held at military bases nationwide with the main gathering in Bangkok outside the 11th Infantry Regiment, which has served as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva`s home and office since the rival Red Shirts launched protests in mid-March to demand the government`s resignation.
"The crisis in Thailand has rapidly and intensively spread and become a state of anarchy," said a petition handed by leaders of the Yellow Shirts — formally known as the People`s Alliance for Democracy — to representatives of the government and Army.
The previously pro-government Yellow Shirts denounced the government for failing to halt the protests and enforce the law, leading to "a vacuum of political power and disorder”.
"The crisis has reached a critical point and has damaged the economy and society," it said. "We would like to see the brave soldiers help us get rid of this illegal activity and bring peace to Thai society as soon as possible."
The Red Shirts, who want Parliament dissolved, have turned parts of Bangkok`s commercial heart into a protest camp in their campaign to bring down a government they view as illegitimate. The encampment has forced the closure of some of the city`s ritziest malls and hotels and cost businesses millions of dollars a day.
The unrest has devastated Thailand`s vital tourist industry, which accounts for six percent of the economy, and sparked projections that the 2010 economic growth forecast of 4.5 percent will need to be revised downward if the protests last much longer.
Wednesday`s bloodshed occurred on a busy expressway that serves as Bangkok`s main gateway to the north.
Thai troops fired rifles and threw tear gas at a crowd of anti-government protesters riding motorbikes, blocking their effort to take the demonstrations that have paralysed central Bangkok into the suburbs.
The confrontation killed one soldier — apparently from friendly fire — and wounded 18 other people as it transformed the multi-lane road into a battle zone. Heavily armed troops took cover behind terrified commuters` cars and one driver clasped her hands in prayer as soldiers wove their way through traffic.