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Political Violence In Chiang Mai

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POLITICAL CRISIS

Democrat leaders attacked in Chiang Mai

Chairs, eggs and paint thrown at party chiefs as violent episode blights lead-up to Sunday's ballot.

Democrat Party leaders were attacked and pelted with chairs and a rally they had planned for Chiang Mai was cut short by road blockages and abusive behaviour in a concerted and highly effective campaign by supporters of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday.

The supporters thwarted the Democrat Party's key members at the airport, blocked the road to the rally venue and threw chairs, rotten eggs, paint and all manner of rubbish onto the stage when they tried to address the rally.

About 100 Thaksin supporters in Chiang Mai, his home town, rushed to Chiang Mai National airport to protest the arrival of Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was scheduled to fly in at 4pm for a speech at Chiang Mai University.

The group went inside the terminal without waiting for weapons checking and held banners with messages condemning Abhisit and the party for boycotting the April 2 election. The Democrat leader was forced to evade the protesters by leaving the airport by a rear gate, which angered the protesters who shouted insults at Abhisit and threatened tourists who witnessed the incident.

Another group of Thaksin supporters used their cars to block Nimmanahaeminda Road, where Chiang Mai University's Art Museum is located. Key members of the Democrat Party, including Abhisit, secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban and senior adviser Chuan Leekpai were stopped from reaching the venue.

The protesters also hung up effigies of the party's key members, as well as leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy like Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang and then burned them.

Hundreds of people who wanted to attend the rally had to wait outside and on the streets around the museum.

The rally eventually started at 6pm, with deputy leader Alongkorn Pollabutr as the first speaker. Only 40-50 people who managed to get into the venue before the roadblock was erected listened to him. More Democrat supporters later climbed a fence to get in.

As Alongkorn was speaking, supporters of Thaksin verbally attacked him and the party, as well as the Chiang Mai audience, through amplifiers.

Abhisit was finally able to get to the museum at 7.20pm. He was giving his speech and telling people why the party had boycotted Sunday's election when about 300 Thaksin supporters rushed the stage. They shouted at him and other party members.

About 100 police and security officers tried to drive the protesters back, but failed and Abhisit had to end his speech 10 minutes later.

The party's spokesman, Ong-art Klampaiboon, said the rally was cancelled and no plans made for a new one.

Nobody was seriously hurt in the attack, he said, although Chuan was hit with a chair and deputy party leader Chaiwut Bannawat had to use his arms to protect himself from a thrown chair.

Some of the protesters stayed in the art museum until 8pm, while some of the key Democrat members were still there.

After the Democrat executives left, Prachuab Wangjai, editor and anchorman of the Nation Channel in Chiang Mai, was punched in the ear.

Members of the audience who turned up to see the Democrat leaders were visibly shaken by the violence from the pro-Thaksin camp. A third-year medical student at the university broke down and cried, saying all she wanted was to hear some political information but instead had to deal with barbaric people. She did not understand why the protest had got out of control and why police had allowed it to.

A university lecturer said it was not the kind of behaviour you would expect to see in Chiang Mai, so it was quite likely the protesters were hired from outside. She said it was an embarrassment for Chiang Mai people.

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Did anybody see ALL of this, or is it a partly fabricated story. :o

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i thought this story was shown on the news and everything. and done with. lucky its not something new.

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I agree, nothing new. This occurred a few days ago and the article corresponds to the reports in the Thai language media.

After the incident, Thaksin actually apologized to the Democrats and said that his fans should "support him in the right way and not resort to violence". Whether this was genuine or to score points, I do not know.

Either way, bad form. The police definitely should have done more to stop the protesters.

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