BANGKOK – Anti-government unrest boiling over in downtown Bangkok spread to other areas of the capital and Thailand as the military defended its use of force in a crackdown that has left 30 civilians dead in four days. Thai leaders flatly rejected protesters’ demands that the United Nations intercede to end the chaos.
Rapid gunfire and explosions echoed before dawn Monday outside the luxury hotels bordering the barricaded protest zone, where the military has attempted to seal in thousands of demonstrators camping in the downtown streets. Guests at the upscale Dusit Thani hotel were rushed to the basement for safety.
On Sunday, towering plumes of black smoke hung over city streets where protesters set fire to tires, fired homemade rockets and threw gasoline bombs at soldiers who used rubber bullets and live ammunition to pick off rioters who approached their lines. Army sharpshooters crouched behind sandbags carefully taking aim and firing to keep attackers at bay.
Leaders of the protesters, who have dubbed themselves Red Shirts, said they wanted talks mediated by the United Nations, provided the government agreed to an immediate cease-fire and pulled its troops back.