Seven people are reported to have been killed and more than 100 were injured in clashes between Thai troops and anti-government protesters in Bangkok, emergency services there reported.
Troops are attempting to seal off protestors' encampment after an assassination attempt on a renegade general unleashed a new wave of violence.
They fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds on protestors in at least three roads surrounding the central Bangkok shopping district they have occupied for nearly six weeks, a Reuters witness said.
A Bangkok-based Canadian journalist working for France 24 television station was among the wounded, the station said. Two Thai journalists were also shot.
The army said it did not plan a crackdown on the main protest site where thousands of the red-shirted demonstrators, including women and children, have gathered, protected by medieval-like walls made from tyres and wooden staves soaked in kerosene and topped by razor wire.
Thailand’s fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra called on the government to pull back troops and restart negotiations with his ‘Red Shirt’ supporters.
‘The government's actions clearly constitute grave infringement of human rights and criminal offences for which the prime minister, the deputy prime minister and all concerned must be responsible,’ Thaksin said in a statement released by his legal adviser in Bangkok.
He urged Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to order troops back to their barracks, revoke the state of emergency in place in parts of the country and immediately reopen talks with protesters to reach a peaceful solution.
‘I believe that (a) political solution still exists for Thailand and the prime minister is able to prevent more casualties and save our country,’ he said.
Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile, mainly in Dubai, to avoid a jail term for corruption. Many Red Shirts seek the return of the former premier.
Abhisit’s government has accused Thaksin of inciting unrest in the capital from overseas.