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News Wrap: Thai Troops Crack Down on Anti-Government Protests

May 14, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: A standoff in the streets of Bangkok, Thailand, escalated today. At least eight people were killed and more than 100 others wounded in clashes between Thai troops and protesters. And some of the violence edged closer to the U.S. and Japanese embassies.

We have a report narrated by Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN MILLER: The heart of Bangkok, the heart of the war zone, this now the deadliest violence in nearly two decades. Here, the nation’s polarized political forces are colliding head-on.

They have seemingly irreconcilable differences, and there are real fears about what the future might hold.

ARISMAN PONGRUENGRONG, anti-government protester (through translator): This is an illegal use of force as ordered by the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva. They should be responsible for those wounded and dead. This is clearly a use of war weapons on the people.

JONATHAN MILLER: This escalation triggered by the attempted assassination last night of the Red Shirt protesters’ Rambo-esque head of security, a renegade army general. He was shot in the head by a sniper and now lies in a coma.

The Red Shirts want the government, dominated by a middle-class metropolitan elite, to resign. But to cast the protesters as made up of rural, poor and the urban underclass is too simple. The fissures dissecting society cut through the rich-poor divide. Ideology doesn’t really come into this, either, just two rival patronage networks clashing. There’s been no word from Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva today. He’s under huge pressure to end the protests. The army’s continued to corral and besiege the protesters, who include women and children, inside their fortified camp.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The standoff has lasted two months, and, in that time, the death toll has reached 37.

Hundreds of people protested — protested in Afghanistan against a NATO strike they believe killed Afghan civilians. The raid took place overnight in the east. NATO officials said eight insurgents were killed, including a Taliban commander.

But local residents insisted the victims were innocent farmers. Afghan President Hamid Karzai also strongly condemned the operation and ordered an investigation.

A suicide bomber killed 10 people in Northern Iraq today. The bomber detonated a car bomb near the entrance to a sports stadium in Tal Afar. It’s a predominantly Shiite city. In addition to the dead, another 120 were wounded. It comes on the same day the new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq warned Shiites that dark days soaked with blood lie ahead. The message was posted on militant Web sites.

A letter from the Justice Department confirmed a criminal investigation into the explosion at a West Virginia mine is under way. Twenty-nine workers died in the accident at the Upper Big Branch Mine last month. Investigators are looking into actions by the mine’s operator, Performance Coal, which is a subsidiary of Massey Energy company. It owns the mine.

The space shuttle Atlantis left on its final voyage today. The shuttle blasted off this afternoon from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Its last 12-day mission is to the International Space Station to deliver fresh batteries and a new Russian-built compartment.

Atlantis has flown 32 missions since 1985. NASA plans to end the 30-year shuttle program by the end of the year to focus on getting astronauts to an asteroid — asteroid and Mars. Only two shuttle flights are left, by Discovery and Endeavour.

Stocks slumped on Wall Street today on concerns that deep spending cuts under a European bailout plan will slow a global economic recovery. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 162 points to close at 10620. The Nasdaq fell 47 points to close above 2346. For the week, the Dow gained 2.3 percent; the Nasdaq rose 3.6 percent.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Jim.