Emergency Declared as Thai Violence Escalates

Thailand Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej declared a state of emergency in Bangkok this morning in the hopes of ending the political turmoil that escalated to bloodshed overnight.

Continued pro- and anti-government protests resulted in at least one death in the capital city and dozens of other people were injured before police could quell the violence.

"I will do my best to normalize the situation as soon as possible," Samak said in a televised press conference today, according to the Bangkok Post.

Over the past week, protestors from the People's Alliance for Democracy have occupied the grounds of Samak's office, the Government House, calling for his resignation.

In other pressure on the government, the Election Commission has charged Samak's People Power Party with electoral fraud in last December's election and has requested that the party be dissolved.

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Gunshots Fired, Bricks Thrown

Last night, the scene on the ground intensified, leading to violence. Protestors threw bricks and anything they could find on the street, including broken plant pots. Gunshots were fired, and shards of glass and broken pottery littered the ground in the area.

Demonstrators yielded sticks and slingshots and wore helmets for protection, along with yellow and red T-shirts to represent anti- and pro-government views.

Soon after the violence erupted, 400 military men clad in camouflage and 700 riot police arrived to placate and barricade the Government House area. The troops and police were all unarmed, hoping to reach a peaceful resolution, a request reportedly passed down from the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Thirty-five-year-old Or sat on a curb barefoot, facing the front of the grounds of the anti-government area. Wearing a black head scarf and tapping a stick to the ground, he said he is here from the south of Thailand to avenge his friend who was attacked.

"Yes, I will hit," he said.

Military Separate the Two Sides

Today's events are reminiscent of those from 1992, remembered as Black May, when about 50 official deaths were reported after a military retaliation against anti-government demonstrators. The king helped to resolve that conflict.

"PAD is not respecting the voice of the people who support government," said Sonyot, a government supporter. "The new government is not perfect but they [PAD] are violating government laws, using force to destroy the government."

In the predawn darkness, the military and police lined up five rows deep with shields held out in front of them -- blocking the two sides from coming face to face, with a gap of less than 100 yards between them.

Protestors yelled obscenities through loudspeakers, threatening violence and drowning out the voices of their opponents.

Empty cars caught in the middle of the standoff have smashed out windows.

Standing in the gap in the middle are journalists, snapping photos and collecting interviews.

The sound of a helmet falling to the ground startled a few to turn in its direction, and at times the crescendoing sound of the crowds prompted medics to approach the front lines.

Food stalls in the back sections of each side remain open.

Throughout the night, police reinforcements hustle in as a group to relieve their standing counterparts.

Protestors on both sides, exhausted from days in the heat of chanting and flag waving, and some from too much drinking, find space on the ground to sleep.

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