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Other News: Troops Crack Down on Thai Protests

April 13, 2009 at 6:15 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: In other news today, thousands of troops in Thailand intensified their crackdown on anti-government protesters. The protests across Bangkok forced an East Asian summit to be postponed. The demonstrators support the former prime minister, who was ousted three years ago and lives in exile.

We have a report from Nick Paton Walsh of Independent Television News.

NICK PATON WALSH: It felt like a small war in Bangkok for the country’s political future, red-shirt protesters taking on the army with petrol bombs and buses. They drive them straight at the troops.

The army tried to get ready, but there’s panic. They promised to shoot only in the air at the crowds, but this time we film them fire directly on the bus and protesters. The bus somehow continues right down the street.

The capital paralyzed, and the violence getting worse. The army tried to block the road, but it’s no use. The army today promised to use every means to end the chaos, but these fire trucks get hit by petrol bombs, so the troops charge.

This is what it’s been like on Bangkok streets today. Behind me, a tense stand-off. The army have just pushed down the streets past buses, the protesters are put on fire, and are now forming new lines likely further down the road.

The number of dead miraculously low, given what unfolded when troops moved in on a protest in the central square at dawn. Dozens injured, some from tear gas, but at least five, we’ve learned, from bullets. It’s not clear whose.

The army insisted later they only shot blanks directly at the crowds.

Late today, 5,000 red shirts at most were penned in by troops around the prime minister’s office. They had hoped to fuel an uprising against the establishment, the old order. But after days of chaos, some Bangkok locals have turned on the red shirts, and now the mood turns so ugly many Thais just hope to see this end, and fast.

GWEN IFILL: At least two people died today in a gun battle between protesters and city residents fed up with the chaos.

The president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, signed a regulation imposing Islamic law in the Swat Valley. The area in the northwest part of the country has been plagued by militants. The government said imposing Islamic law is part of a deal with the Taliban in exchange for peace there. Pakistan’s National Assembly voted over the weekend to urge the president to sign the deal.

An American soldier was killed in Iraq today. An armor-piercing bomb hit the soldier’s convoy as it traveled south of Karbala. It was the seventh U.S. combat death since Friday.

The United Nations Security Council took action against North Korea today, more than a week after the communist country launched a test missile. The statement made clear North Korea violated a 2006 resolution banning any missile tests, and it demanded enforcement of existing sanctions.

In New York, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, said stronger sanctions are in the works.

SUSAN RICE, U.N. Ambassador: We have already compiled a U.S. list, a proposed list of goods and entities. We may, in fact, add to that list. And we look very much forward to the recommendations and proposals that will come from other member states. Those will all be reviewed by the Sanctions Committee.

GWEN IFILL: The statement was a weaker response than a council resolution, which Japan and the U.S. had pushed for, but China and Russia opposed.

The president promoted government efforts to stimulate the economy today. He said 2,000 projects have been started so far, the latest a $68 million interstate expansion in Michigan. That comes out of the $48 billion set aside for transportation projects across the country, many of which were already underway.

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: Today, because these projects are getting approved more quickly than we thought and because these projects are costing less than we thought, we can utter a sentence rarely heard in recent years: This government effort is coming in ahead of schedule and under budget.

GWEN IFILL: Other infrastructure projects include modernizing airports and shipyards, developing high-speed rail networks, and restoring public transit systems.

The White House lawn in Washington played host to thousands of families today for the annual Easter egg roll. The Obama family welcomed more than 30,000 parents and children for the traditional event. For the first time since it was launched in 1878, tickets were distributed online. Gay and lesbian families also received invitations as part of a White House outreach effort.

On Wall Street today: the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 25 points to close at 8,057. The Nasdaq was flat and closed at 1,653.