Tuesday 01 June 2010 | Thailand feed


Human Rights Watch calls for Thailand inquiry after riots

Human Rights Watch has called for an independent investigation into the Bangkok riots that left 2 dead and 123 people injured on Monday.

Soldier patrolling the streets of Bangkok, Thailand: Human Rights Watch calls for Thailand inquiry after riots leave two dead
A soldier walks past a temple as he patrols on a street near to the government office in Bangkok Photo: AFP

A state of emergency is still in force in Bangkok, with soldiers on the streets, censorship of the press and limits on freedom of assembly, but the city has otherwise returned to normal.

On Monday there was widespread violence as anti-government protesters, loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, the exiled former prime minister, clashed with armed soldiers and local residents.

According to Human Rights Watch, "two members of neighbourhood watch groups were shot dead in a clash with protesters. Four soldiers were wounded by gunshot. The rest of the injured suffered from teargas inhalation, bone fractures, and gunshot and shrapnel wounds".

"Now is the time to end this cycle of violence. The way to do it is for this government to hold abusers accountable, no matter what their political affiliation," said the group's Asia director, Brad Adams.

Mr Thaksin's "red shirt" followers, who claim the four month old government is illegitimate, "attacked approaching soldiers with guns, Molotov bombs, improvised grenades, slingshots, and rocks", the New York based group said.

The group praised the restraint shown by most soldiers but said there were cases where live ammunition was fired directly at protesters.

"Soldiers and police who used force beyond what was needed should not escape investigation and prosecution. The government cannot only prosecute protest leaders or they will make a mockery of Thai law," said Mr Adams.

The group also called for an investigation of clashes between the "red shirts" and government supporters at the weekend.

A leading member of the governing coalition was photographed with the pro-government "blue shirts" before the clashes and the "blue shirts" were also armed with weapons.

Last year "yellow shirt" protesters, who included members of the current government, rioted: "firing guns, shooting slingshots, throwing bricks and metal pipes, trying to run over police officers with pickup trucks, and stabbing police with flagpoles", Human Rights Watch said.

None of them has been prosecuted.

On Wednesday the Thai government cancelled the passport of Mr Thaksin, saying his activities had harmed the country.

Mr Thaksin, who was toppled by a military coup in 2006, is in self imposed exile to avoid a two year jail sentence for a conflict of interest while in office.

On Thursday it emerged that he was appointed a "special ambassador" and issued with a passport by the government of Nicaragua several months ago.

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