(Vatican Radio) Armed clashes broke out on Saturday between pro- and anti-government
protests in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, leaving several people injured as the city
prepares for widespread disruptions next week. Gangs of protestors and government
supporters fought street battles on the outskirts of the capital. Emergency services
personnel carried victims away, some of them apparently with gunshot wounds.
Saturday, ongoing protests had largely been peaceful. This is some of the first violence
involving pro-government activists. The party of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra
won the last election with a big majority, and retains strong support in some parts
of Thailand. Many supporters are frustrated by the past two months of protests and
by opponents threatening to bring Thailand to a halt this Monday, in what they describe
as a widespread shutdown of Bangkok, with a blockade of its streets.
Minister Shinawatra says the police and army will deploy more than 20,000 personnel
on Monday to maintain peace, warning that extremists might use the day to instigate
violence. She insists a snap election will go ahead three weeks from now, as planned.
But the unrest may already be taking a toll on Thailand's economy. Reports quote officials
as saying fewer tourists may be travelling there this month, and airlines have cancelled
some of their flights to Thailand amid weaker demand.