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Thousands Protest in Bangkok, State of Emergency Called

Thousands of anti-government protestors took to the street of Bangkok Sunday, forcing the cancellation of a 16-nation Asian summit meeting and creating a state of emergency.

According to the Wall Street Journal, several hundred protestors had crowded into the seaside town of Pattaya where an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit was being held to discuss the global financial crisis.

The attack forced Thai authorities to cancel the meeting and call in helicopters to evacuate some of the Asian world leaders.

Crowds of protestors had gathered around Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s office, after demonstrating for days and calling for the dissolution of the government. As Abhisit tried to leave the Interior Ministry after calling a state of emergency that bans gatherings of five or more people, protestors attacked his car. (New York Times)

Police and army officials took to the streets in military vehicles and tanks, although doing little to disband large groups of protestors.

The Wall Street Journal reported that police estimated an approximated 30,000 demonstrators had participated in the riots around the city. 70,000 more protestors are believed to have joined the rally by Wednesday.

The protestors, who wore red shirts, demonstrated in support of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a coup in 2006 and has been moving from country to country in the hope of escaping extradition and imprisonment on a corruption conviction.

Thaksin threatened to return to Bangkok and lead an uprising. He called for a revolution and urged soldiers to turn against the government.

“Now that they have tanks on the streets, it is time for the people to come out in revolution,” he said in a telephone message. “I will closely monitor the situation. If there is any violence I will return to Thailand immediately.” (New York Times)

Political turmoil has plagued Bangkok ever since the country’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 82, fell ill in health in recent months. Although holding no direct political power, King Bhumibol’s illness leads a sort of uncertainty over who would be the country’s royal successor should he pass on.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, says that “we need reconciliation and I don’t see any sign that it is coming.” (New York Times)

Instead, Thitinan predicts that “we’re witnessing the birth of a new phenomenon here and there’s no telling where it will end.” (Wall Street Journal)