Thailand’s prime minister struck a defiant tone on Saturday on national television, saying his government will not bow to demonstrators demanding his resignation.
Explosions and street fighting have killed 22 people and wounded more than 170 since the government attempted Thursday to seal off a 3-square-kilometre zone the Red Shirt protesters have occupied in one of the capital’s most upscale areas.
In his first comments since the latest violence erupted, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva defended the army’s actions.
“The government must move forward. We cannot retreat because we are doing things that will benefit the entire country,” he said. The plan is “to return normalcy with minimum loss” to the Thai capital, he said. The problem is some “terrorists” have infiltrated the Red Shirt protesters.
“I insist that if we want to see an end to the loss of life, the only way is to have the protesters end their protest,” he said.
The demonstrators claim Abhisit’s coalition government came to power through manipulation of the courts and the backing of the powerful military, and that it is indifferent to the poor.
The spiraling violence has raised concerns that Thailand a longtime tourism magnet that promotes its easygoing culture as the “Land of Smiles” was teetering toward instability.
The US. mbassy will soon issue a new alert urging its citizens against any travel to Thailand’s capital, the embassy spokesman said on Saturday.
“Before we were advising against all non-essential travel to Bangkok. Now we are asking for Americans to stay away from Bangkok, essential travel or not,” spokesman Michael Turner, told Reuters.
The last US travel advisory, issued April 28, warned only against non-essential travel to Thailand. In 2009, 627,000 Americans came to Thailand.
The British Embassy also warned of “intense violence” in two areas of the capital. “We expect shooting and intense violence in Ratchaprarop, Din Daeng area and other violent areas,” the embassy said in a statement, referring to areas in Bangkok where troops and protesters have clashed.
“As a further precaution, please avoid department stores in Bangkok. If safe to do so, please return home or stay where you are safe.”
In 2009, 841,000 British tourists came to Thailand, more than from any other European country.