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Australian embassy in Bangkok shuts doors

By South East Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel and wires

Updated May 17, 2010 06:08:00

Dozens of people have been killed in the clashes.

Dozens of people have been killed in the clashes. (AFP: Manan Vatsyayana)

Australia has temporarily closed its embassy in Bangkok due to escalating political violence.

In three days 31 people have been killed and 230 injured in clashes between anti-government Red Shirts and soldiers trying to close their protest camps.

Some of the violence has occurred outside the building and protesters also burnt a pile of tyres in front of the embassy.

The embassy will be closed until further notice.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has urged Australians to reconsider any travel plans to Thailand.

It has told expats living within the military cordon in Bangkok's centre to leave if it is safe to do so.

Women and children near one Red Shirt camp have fled to a temple to escape the unrest.

Shooting and explosions were heard just outside the closest barricade to the main stage where Red Shirt leaders have been delivering speeches to protesters throughout the two-month sit-in.

The anti-government movement wants Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to resign.

Tents near the barricade were blacked out and so were nearby buildings.

Television stations doing live reports from a balcony above the protest site had to suspend their broadcasts due to the risk of a sniper attack.

The government cancelled a planned curfew for last night so people could leave the rally if they wanted to but most either want to stay or are too afraid to leave.

The protest leaders have asked for new UN-mediated talks but the government has refused.

'Indiscriminate violence'

Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer for former Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra, has arrived in Bangkok to assist the Red Shirts who he says are in terrible danger from government forces.

"The situation now has involved indiscriminate violence against the Red Shirts, targeted assassination against their leaders," he said.

"The situation for them could not be more desperate. But the necessity to go and murder civilians as we've seen is absolutely unjustifable and illegal."

Thai authorities have told protesters camped in Bangkok to allow women and the elderly to leave the camp by Monday afternoon.

The Red Cross has been asked to help coax people out of the area.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters are gathering in another part of the city.

The government has declared a state of emergency in more than 20 provinces - mostly in the protesters' northern heartlands - in a bid to stop more demonstrators heading to the capital.

- ABC/BBC

Tags: world-politics, unrest-conflict-and-war, thailand

First posted May 17, 2010 05:13:00

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