Thai troops fire tear gas to disperse red-shirts, gunshots heard

09:24, May 19, 2010      

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Anti-government protesters hide behind thick smoke rising from a burning barricade at the site where they clashed with Thai troops near the Victory monument in Bangkok May 18, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

The helicopters hovering above the Ratchaprasong area in Bangkok dropped tear gas to disperse "red- shirts" and gunshots were heard as the troops massed at several locations in the capital Wednesday morning.

According to live report by Thai TV channel 3, one building at Silom street were on fire and more tyres were burnt at Kholong Toei area, southeast of the protest zone that has been sealed off by the troops since May 13.

No report of deaths or injuries so far as the protestors at Silom, south of the protest zone, have retreated toward the Ratchaprasong.

The live TV reports showed that armored personnel carriers ( APCs) with machine guns mounted on top came up at the Silom business district, south part of the sealed-off zone by the troops. Several trucks dropped off troops wearing balaclavas and carrying weapons and riot shields, and the soldiers shot in the air to urge the protestors to leave the rally sites.

Hundreds of armed police were forming lines in Sukhumvit Road, a main thoroughfare leading into the protest zone, backed up by some 20 police vans on the roadside.

Military helicopters are hovering above the Ratchaprasong area, which has been sealed off by the troops since May 13.

All the hospitals in Bangkok have prepared themselves to admit possible injured people, the TV report said.

Thousands of red-shirts remained at Ratchaprasong though earlier the government set a deadline demanding all the protestors to leave Ratchaprasong by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The troops were building up in several locations in Bangkok at about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, ready to disperse the red-shirts who have been rallying at the downtown Ratchaprasong area since early April and defied a deadline to leave.

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