Alarm grows as protesters bashed
Three hurt, three arrested after PM's minders target protesters on third day of violence
Plainclothes police officers lead a man, who was shouting anti-Thaksin slogans, away from possible attack by a group of pro-Thaksin people in Central World Plaza. The prime minister was at the mall to preside over a ceremony at the Thai Knowledge Park.
Three people were injured and three others arrested yesterday when fights erupted between supporters and opponents of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. It was the second such clash in three days.
Television broadcasts of the skirmishes showed police failed to intervene.
An elderly man could be seen being kicked and stomped by alleged supporters of the prime minister. Two men shouting "Thaksin, get out" were manhandled and dragged away by others.
According to a top policeman, it was suspected some attackers were policemen in civilian clothes.
"One of them is a man in a black shirt who can be seen on a video recording. Police will look into this," Colonel Manit Wongsomboon, deputy commander of the Metro-politan Police Division 6, said.
Yesterday's clashes occurred shortly after Thaksin departed the Central World Plaza shopping complex. His attendance at the opening of the Digital Thai Knowledge Park was accompanied by tight security. Metropolitan Police commissioner general Viroj Chantarangsi was also present at the function.
Thaksin supporters and opponents sparred verbally outside the building. A man shouting "Thaksin, get out" was punched by another in the crowd.
Police arrested three men during the skirmishes. Those arrested have been identified as Vichai Uasila-phan, 53, Ritthirong Likhitprasert-kul, 68, and Mongkol Boontem, 18.
Vichai and Ritthirong, who shouted anti-Thaksin messages, were charged with causing a public nuisance. Mongkol had been charged with assault, Manit said.
The injured were identified as Itthiphon Sorawitsakul, 70, Vasu-porn Boonmee, 41, and Khwanchai Juimanee, 30.
Itthiphon was knocked down and stomped by more than 10 men until he was unconscious. He required two stitches to the head. Most of his attackers wore new white shoes.
Khwanchai sustained a wound to his left eye and bruising to the head.
Wasuporn was punched in the face and knocked to the ground. She told reporters she was merely an observer. "I'm so scared, I don't want to file a police complaint," she said.
On Saturday, a small anti-Thaksin group was attacked when it shouted at the prime minister as he attended a Royal exhibition at the Siam Paragon shopping mall.
In a related development, government spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee said the government and the Thai Rak Thai Party denounced the verbal attacks that led to clashes. He accused the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy of instigating the latest melee.
In response to a PAD call for Thaksin to step down, Surapong said there was no guarantee peace would be restored if the Thai Rak Thai leader quit politics.
Senior opposition figures yesterday expressed concern over the escalating violence.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit called on people to act with restraint, warning the situation could get out of control.
"Everyone has the right to free expression but they should also act within limits," he said.
Abhisit said government officials should not treat demonstrators as political puppets, adding that making disparaging comparisons would fuel anger.
Mahachon Party deputy leader Akapol Surasuchart expressed concern political tensions would escalate in the lead-up to the election.
"Thaksin should quickly make his decision whether to take a political break," he said.
The longer Thaksin defied his critics, the more clashes would occur.
He believed the party had fanned a climate of animosity by attacking opponents. He referred to Thai Rak Thai claims opponents were planning a suicide bombing against Thaksin.