Anti—government demonstrators defied a deadline to disperse from a central Bangkok protest site on Monday as their rebellion intensified at several other points in the city.
The death toll from four days of clashes increased to 36, including rebel army Major General Khattiya Sawasdipol, 58, a militant leader of the protestors, who died on Monday as a result of a bullet to the head last Thursday night.
The shooting of Khattiya, alias Seh Daeng (Red Commander), by an unidentified sniper touched off the latest round of violence in the Thai capital.
United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leader Jatuporn Prompan paid tribute to Seh Daeng shortly after the death announcement and urged followers to gather at a Buddhist temple near Government House on Monday night to pay their respects.
Kraisak Choonhavan, deputy leader of the ruling Democrat Party, said the death had decapitated the protestors’ most militant wing.
“Seh Daeng has been in deep conflict with UDD leaders for some time,” Mr. Kraisak said. “The UDD is left without a leader for their paramilitary group, but they have a lot of teeth left,” he added.
Military officers on Monday set a 3 pm (0800 GMT) deadline for several thousand demonstrators to vacate their protest at the Ratchaprasong commercial district or face arrest and a two—year jail term.
They also offered the protestors, many of whom are farmers from the country’s north—eastern provinces, free transportation home.
But several thousand demonstrators remained at the Ratchaprasong site on Monday afternoon, and protest leader Jatuporn said they would face any army attack.
“We will stay in the area peacefully with nothing in our hands,” he told the crowd on Monday afternoon. “If the government kills the demonstrators at Ratchaprasong, Din Daeng or Bon Kai, the problem will absolutely not end.” He was referring to two other zones where new uprisings had spread over the weekend, complicating the military’s job of ending the demonstrations.
At the Bon Kai site, near the central Rama IV Road, about 500 protestors were gathered late Monday, building barricades of old tyres and bamboo in defiance of an army order to disperse.
Local TV showed several people wounded in the crossfire between troops and demonstrators there on Monday afternoon. A petrol truck was parked between soldiers and demonstrators facing each other on Rama IV Road, adding to the volatility of the standoff.
Large barricades were also being built in the Din Daeng area north of Ratchaprasong.
Another clash was reported near central Bangkok’s Victory Monument, but a crowd dispersed from the area after the arrival of several companies of police.
Anti—government demonstrators have been occupying the central commercial district at Ratchaprasong since April 3.
The protestors are demanding the immediate dissolution of parliament and new elections. They are supported politically and financially by fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by an army coup in 2006.
Government offices were ordered closed on Monday and Tuesday, as were Bangkok’s mass transit Skytrain and underground rail services.
Schools, which had been due to reopen after holidays on Monday, were ordered to remain closed until next week.
The Pheua Thai Party, which backs the protests, submitted a letter on Monday to the United Nations requesting an investigation into the government’s alleged human rights violations against the protestors.