Thailand's army chief, General Anupong Paojinda, pledged that there will not be a new military coup, after troops from the army, navy and air force were mobilised to back up police trying to clear protesters from outside Parliament.
The military has staged 18 coups since the country became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.
Euronews reports a young woman, aged about 20, is believed to have died and many others were were hurt in a suspected car bomb explosion during rioting on the streets of Bangkok. The device went off near to where anti-government protesters were laying siege to parliament. Shots are also said to have been fired at police, struggling to contain the demonstrators.
According to an article in the Asia Sentinel written by Thai scholar Giles Ji Unphakorn, the rioters are right wing thugs led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy who came prepared with iron bars and crash helmets.
Their plan, according to the Sentinel, as always, "was to create chaos in the hope that the military would stage a coup or that the ruling party would once again be dissolved by the courts. Their claim is that the present government led by the Peoples Power Party or PPP -- ex-Premier Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai in another name-- is illegitimate."
Overnight Tuesday, PAD supporters erected razor-wire barricades around Parliament manned by militia armed with sticks, knives, guns and slingshots, setting the stage for a day of confrontation and chaos.
The unrest marked an escalation of a four-month campaign to oust a government that was elected by rural and urban poor but is bitterly opposed by influential elites in Bangkok.
The PPP and the previous Thai Rak Thai have consistently won large majorities in elections, proving that they are popular with the poor, who make up the majority of the population. This support from the poor is not surprising, since the party was the first elite party in 30 years to offer a universal health care scheme and public funds to develop the rural economy.
The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is a protest group led by Sondhi Limthongkul, a former media magnate. The group has the support of right-wing royalists who would welcome military rule with royal patronage.
Its supporters are mainly urban, middle- to upper-class who are relatively rich compared to the majority of Thailand's rural population.
PAD advocate the scrapping of the one-man-one-vote democracy in Thailand and say only 30 per cent of parliament's members should be directly elected by the people.
The remaining 70 per cent should be chosen from various occupations and professions and be appointed, they say.
Supinya Klangnarong from the Campaign for Popular Media Reform, a Bangkok-based lobby group, told Al Jazeera that the group was going against democratic principles.
"It is obvious now that the PAD proposal is very anti-democratic principle because they no longer believe in the politicians who are elected by the people," she said.
Again, from Giles Ji Unphakorn in the Sentinel:
"Every public institution and organization in Thailand is now compromised by this inter-elite conflict and the losers, as usual, are the poor: workers and small farmers. The monarchy has failed to defuse the situation. The queen has openly sided with the PAD mob. The courts are practicing double standards, attacking Thaksin and Thai Rak Thai/People’s Power Party corruption while ignoring illegal coups, mob violence and corruption by opposition politicians and the military."
The military as always is on the side of the conservative royalists. The police are unable to act and the government lurches from crisis to crisis. The majority of academia is hopelessly compromised by its support for the coup and their support for decreasing the democratic space. Democratic principles have been thrown out the window by professors who teach "democratization" and the need for "the rule of law."'
We need to reform society to bring about progressive changes. This means expanding democracy, not allowing Thailand to slide back into the dark ages of dictatorship. But the task will only take place by forces in the Peoples' Movement – the left, the NGO networks, social movements and trade unions coming together to outline our own reform strategy. We cannot rely on the corrupt human-rights abusers in the government, nor the fascists of the PAD and their allies to achieve these aims."
The following is from The Standard (Hong Kong).
Blood runs on deadly streets of Bangkok
Anti-government protests left at least one person dead and hundreds injured yesterday as months of political turmoil boiled over in Bangkok, with troops deployed across the city to quell demonstrations.
There were scenes of chaos outside parliament as police fired teargas into a crowd of thousands, sending bloodied protesters fleeing. Angry mobs overturned police vehicles and fired guns.
A female protester was killed during the clashes, a hospital official said.
Eight police officers were shot or stabbed in the unrest that capped months of demonstrations aimed at removing Thailand's elected government because of its ties to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
A man was also killed in a car bombing near the protest site, police said, although it was unclear whether this was related to the clashes. They earlier identified the victim as a woman.
"We have been asked by the police to help maintain law and order," army spokesman Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd said.
"Troops will be deployed across Bangkok, not just at the flash points, to maintain law and order," he said, adding they would not be armed.
Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat - who assumed power only three weeks ago - said he would not declare a state of emergency. "I will continue my work," he said.
Medical officials said 358 people were injured, at least 20 seriously, as police tried to disperse several thousand protesters surrounding parliament to try to prevent Somchai from giving his first policy speech. The address went ahead but the special parliamentary session ended after two hours and protesters blockaded lawmakers inside, forcing Somchai and five aides to climb over a fence at the back of the parliament and onto the lawns of an adjoining palace before being flown by helicopter to safety.
Police hit the demonstrators with teargas as they tried to disperse about 8,000 protesters, eventually creating an exit for the trapped politicians.
Late on Monday, thousands heeded a call from a protest leader to march on parliament for a "final battle."
One of Thailand's five deputy prime ministers, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, resigned over the crackdown, saying his role as chief negotiator with protesters was compromised.
Parliament went ahead with its session yesterday morning despite a boycott by the opposition Democrat Party in protest against the crackdown.