Bangkok violence escalates

Violence in Bangkok has escalated with troops opening fire on rioting Red Shirt anti-government protestors, once again turning the Thai capital into a battlefield.

On Friday, the so-called Red Shirts seized and vandalized several military vehicles, and set at least one truck on fire.

The television channel France 24 said one of its correspondents was shot in the leg while reporting on the unrest. A Thai photographer was also reported to have been shot.

However most of the streets in the conflict area were empty of civilians. The United States Embassy, which is in the protest area, was shut down and offered voluntary relocation to employees. Other embassies in the area also closed, as did schools and businesses.

Protest leaders addressed thousands of people who have camped in the downtown area for weeks, demanding that the government resign and hold new elections.

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The military has held back, fearing widespread casualties like those that occurred in a dispersal attempt on April 10 that killed at least two dozen people and wounded hundreds more.

The confrontations began near the spot where the shooting of an influential anti-government general by a sniper on Thursday night touched off an evening of violence. The general, had become a symbol of the lawlessness that has ripped Thailand apart as the protests have pitted the nation’s poor against its establishment.

General Khattiya was shot during an interview with a reporter for The New York Times shortly after the military announced the start of a blockade and cut off electricity and water to a tent city of thousands of protesters.

The general angered the government by joining the red-shirt movement, as well as many protest leaders over his refusal to back down. The government accused him of a role in the violence that has taken more than two dozen lives since the protests began in mid-March.

He had assumed control of security for the protesters, placing his own black-shirted paramilitary fighters at entrances in the makeshift barriers around their encampment, and he claimed the loyalty of a small but intense group of protesters.