Seven people died and more than 100 were injured in clashes on Friday between Thai troops and “Red Shirt” anti-government protesters in Bangkok, emergency services reported.
Six men and one woman were killed in the violence, which also left 101 people wounded, according to the official Erawan emergency centre.
Thai troops opened fire on protesters after a military lockdown of their vast rally site in the heart of the capital sparked fierce clashes.
Security forces moved to regain control of a road close to the Suan Lum night bazaar, a popular spot with tourists, after demonstrators spilled out of their fortified rally base, which was under siege by troops.
The protesters, who are trying to bring down the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, threw stones, used slingshots and launched fireworks at the troops as the two-month standoff descended into more violence.
As night fell, gunfire continued to ring out close to the protest site, which was still occupied by thousands of demonstrators. Several blasts were heard in the nearby financial district but the cause was unclear.
Three journalists, one of them a Canadian with the France 24 television channel, were shot and wounded while covering the unrest.
Rebel General Critical
A renegade general allied with the Reds was fighting for his life after being shot late Thursday close to the protest site. His supporters said he was targeted by a sniper.
The army, which had warned it would deploy snipers around the Reds’ protest site, denied any involvement in the shooting of Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol, better known by his nickname “Seh Daeng”.
Khattiya, who had been accused of trying to block government moves to reconcile with the protesters, was unconscious in the intensive care unit of Vahira hospital with a head wound.
Mar 14: Red-shirts converge on Bangkok, hold first big rally, occupy government district
Mar 16: Protesters splash their own blood at Government House
Mar 30: A round of talks with the government ends in deadlock
Apr 3: Red-shirts occupy Bangkok shopping district
Apr 7: PM Abhisit orders state of emergency
Apr 10: Troops try to clear protesters; 25 people are killed and hundreds injured
Apr 22: Grenade blasts kill one and injure 85 near protest hub; each side blames the other
Apr 28: Policeman shot in clashes in northern Bangkok