- The Washington Times - Friday, April 30, 2010

BANGKOK | Thailand’s pro-establishment activists demanded military action against government foes and an end to “anarchy” in the capital Thursday, a day after clashes turned a busy expressway into a deadly battle zone.

The re-emergence of the so-called Yellow Shirts - notorious for shutting Bangkok’s airports for a week in 2008 - added to the volatility on the streets of the Thai capital, where a seven-week standoff has killed at least 27 people and wounded nearly 1,000.

Chamlong Srimuang, one of the top Yellow Shirt leaders, has suggested that martial law be implemented - which would hand over most state functions to the military - and called on the army to stop the protesters on its own if the government would not, warning that otherwise civil war could ensue.

The crisis also spilled into the diplomatic arena, with the foreign minister chastizing envoys here for interfering in Thailand’s internal affairs.

The Yellow Shirts draw their support from Thailand’s business and bureaucratic elite, whose pervasive influence is deeply resented by the Red Shirts - supported by the rural and urban poor who make up the vast majority of the country’s more than 60 million people.

The current round of unrest is the culmination of a four-year political standoff since the 2006 ouster of populist Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a military coup.

Mr. Thaksin is a hero for the Red Shirts, but is loathed by the Yellow camp. The Red Shirts are seeking the resignation of the current prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva- whose government they view as supported by the military and illegitimate - and fresh elections.

The crisis has hurt business in the capital and devastated Thailand’s vital tourist industry, which accounts for 6 percent of the economy. The Red Shirts have turned parts of Bangkok’s commercial heart into a protest camp, forcing the closure of some of the city’s upscale malls and hotels.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya censured some envoys for meeting last week with Red Shirt leaders.

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