In brief: Thai anti-government protesters defy deadline
Bangkok, Thailand – Thousands of anti-government protesters, ignoring a government deadline, occupied the commercial heart of Thailand’s capital for a second day today, vowing to hang on until new elections are called.
Many of the mainly poor, rural protesters known as the Red Shirts slept the night on pavement. Area office buildings and more than a half-dozen shopping malls, normally packed with weekend shoppers, closed for security reasons Saturday, and whether they would open today wasn’t immediately known.
The government first ordered the protesters out before the day ended Saturday but later said negotiations would continue.
The Red Shirts’ fourth weekend demonstration in Bangkok targeted the district of upscale hotels and glitzy shopping malls as they grope for tactics to force Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to meet their demands, after failing to oust his government through peaceful mass marches and negotiations.
The Red Shirt movement – known formally as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship – consists largely of supporters of ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and pro-democracy activists who opposed a 2006 military coup that ousted him.
Search vessel for victims of sunken ship also sinks
Seoul, South Korea – Heaping more tragedy on an already grieving South Korea, a fishing vessel assisting in the search for 46 crewmen of a sunken naval boat went down Saturday, and the nine on board were presumed dead.
As the South Korean coast guard retrieved the bodies of two of the fishermen, divers found the first corpse from the 1,200-ton navy ship Cheonan, which sank late last month after an explosion. Fifty-eight crew members, including the captain, were rescued.
The body was discovered near the ship’s mess hall, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The circumstances of the navy ship’s sinking remained a mystery, one that has been compounded by other losses. A military diver died after losing consciousness as he scouted the hull of the boat.
Grieving family members have accused the government of withholding information about the search, and many believe that the vessel had structural problems before the sinking. President Lee Myun-bak has visited with the families and has asked for patience, officials said.