BANGKOK, Thailand – Thai troops armed with assault rifles moved into Bangkok’s central business district this morning to stop thousands of anti-government protesters.
The government had earlier declared Silom Road, a thoroughfare studded with bank headquarters and office buildings, off-limits to the protesters who have camped in the capital’s main shopping district nearby for weeks.
Troops initially blocked entry into the road, popularly known as Thailand’s Wall Street, but then pulled back to protect a key target of the protesters, the headquarters of the Bangkok Bank, which was barricaded by barbed wire. Many of the demonstrators, who had earlier faced off against the troops across an intersection, also pulled back.
The so-called “Red Shirts” claim the bank has close ties to the government. They have protested in front of the building previously on a smaller scale.
The Red Shirt protesters, formally known as the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, want Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve Parliament and call new elections.
Detained medical workers released
KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan authorities released three Italian medical workers who had been detained for a week, clearing them of allegations they were part of a Taliban plot to kill a provincial governor, Italian and Afghan officials said.
The Afghan intelligence service said the three Italian as well as five Afghan employees of the Italian aid group Emergency were freed Sunday because they were no longer believed to be part of the plot. A sixth Afghan employee remained in custody.
The nine Emergency employees were taken into custody April 10 after Afghan and British forces found explosives and handguns in an Emergency hospital in the southern Afghan province of Helmand.
Officials suspected that Emergency employees were bribed by Taliban insurgents to smuggle weapons into the hospital in preparation for an assassination attempt on the provincial governor. Emergency denied the accusation.
Aid reaching earthquake zone
JIEGU, China – Badly needed aid finally is arriving in a remote western China town shattered by an earthquake, including enough food and shelter for tens of thousands of suddenly homeless, though some complained it wasn’t reaching everyone in need.
The surge in aid coincided with the arrival Sunday of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who cut short an official trip to South America to deal with the disaster in this remote Tibetan region where residents have frequently chafed under Chinese rule. The quake Wednesday killed 1,706 people and injured 12,128.
The president’s carefully scripted trip included visits with displaced families living in tents and rescue teams as they dug through debris looking for the 256 still missing. He promised that the government was doing everything they could. Tibetan anger over political and religious restrictions and perceived economic exploitation by the majority Han Chinese have sometimes erupted in violence.