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Bangkok erupts into chaos

Bangkok

At least 1 dead, hundreds injured in anti-government protests

AFP

Thai protesters watch a vehicle burn near the Parliament building in Bangkok Tuesday.

ANTI-government protests left at least one dead and hundreds injured as months of political turmoil boiled over, with troops deployed across Bangkok to quell the demonstrations, officials said.

There were scenes of chaos outside Bangkok's parliament as police fired tear gas into the crowd of thousands, sending bloody protesters fleeing. Angry mobs overturned police vehicles and fired guns, AFP correspondents said.

One female protester was killed during clashes, an official from a Bangkok hospital said, but did not reveal the cause of death.

 Police said eight officers were also shot or stabbed in the unrest, which capped months of demonstrations aimed at removing Thailand's elected government because of its ties to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

A man was also killed in a car bombing near the protest site, police said, although they said it was unclear if the blast was directly linked to the violence. Police had earlier identified the victim as a woman.

"We have been asked by the police to help maintain law and order," army spokesman Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd told AFP, without specifying how many soldiers had been deployed.

"Troops will be deployed across Bangkok, not just at the flash points, to maintain law and order," he said, but added that troops would not be armed.

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat - who has only been in his position for three weeks - said he would not declare a state of emergency or resign as the protests escalated.

"I will continue my work," he told reporters.

Government medical officials said 358 people had been injured, at least 20 seriously, as police tried to disperse several thousand protesters surrounding parliament to try to prevent Somchai from giving his first policy speech.

The address went ahead but the special parliamentary session ended after two hours and protesters blockaded lawmakers inside, forcing Somchai and five aides to climb over a fence to escape the mob, an AFP correspondent said.

Police bombarded the demonstrators with tear gas throughout the day to try to disperse about 8,000 protesters.

They eventually created an exit for the trapped politicians, who hurried out of the building.

Thailand's political turmoil began here in late May when protesters launched their campaign to overthrow the government because of its ties to Thaksin, who was ousted in a September 2006 coup.

Supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy stormed Bangkok's main government compound on August 26 and have been barricaded there since, also protesting the government's plans to amend the constitution.

One of Thailand's five deputy prime ministers, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, resigned over the crackdown.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, told AFP: "This is the end of Thailand as we know it.... There's no quick end here". AFP

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