SEVERAL people are dead after Thai government troops opened fire on unarmed protesters in Bangkok on Friday.
A leading Redshirt rebel was also shot, probably fatally, by an army sniper.
Eye-witness Ben Doherty, reporting for The Guardian from Thailand, says:
"The centre of Bangkok is now a battleground, with rolling skirmishes being fought in the empty streets between the redshirts' compound, fortified with tyres and sharpened bamboo staves, and the hastily constructed sand-bagged and razor-wired positions of the troops.
In most places, the reds' camp and the troop position are a couple of hundred metres apart. The areas between, some of the most exclusive addresses in Bangkok, are almost deserted.
Shops have been closed and thousands of residents who live in central city apartments have fled.
Gunfire rings out on-and-off, mixed with the explosions of firecrackers and grenades being launched. Police helicopters fly overhead.
As the troops try to move in on the redshirts' encampment, more protesters, not necessarily redshirts but sympathetic to their cause and resentful of the government crackdown, are coming out onto the streets, attacking the soldiers from behind. They are throwing bricks, molotov cocktails and lumps of concrete.
Most of Bangkok's busiest roads, which would usually by jammed with traffic on a Friday afternoon, are deserted save for protestors and soldiers. Protesters are burning tyres, and, in some cases, seized army vehicles in the streets."