Thailand’s military has dispatched unarmed troops to the streets of Bangkok in an attempt to help police regain control of the city after major clashes with anti-government protesters outside of parliament. Army commander Anupong Paochinda assured that the deployment was not a prelude to another coup and cautioned people not to panic about the move.
The protesters surrounded parliament earlier today, trapping hundreds of parliamentarians inside for more than five hours. Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat reportedly had to climb over a fence behind the building to escape after his early morning address. The other members fled after police fired tear gas canisters into the throng of protesters, whose number has been reported as somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000.
In the ensuing melee, one protester was killed and at least 350 others were injured. The protesters overturned police vehicles and reportedly injured eight police. Another person was killed in a suspected car bombing shortly afterward, though it is as yet unclear if this was directly related to the clashes.
The protests have been going on for months, and stem from accusations against the recently elected government of corruption and plotting against the nation’s popular monarchy. The protests gained considerable momentum when police arrested one of the leaders of the protest, retired General Chamlong Srimuang, on Sunday afternoon. Former prime minister Anand Panyarachun compared the arrest to “starting a fire,” and said he was unsure “where it is going to lead.”