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Protester killed during clashes in Bangladesh – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English

Protester killed during clashes in Bangladesh – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English.

Supporters accuse authorities of keeping opposition figure Khaleda Zia under de facto house arrest. [AFP]
Bangladesh police fired water cannon and shotguns at opposition protesters in the capital, killing one person, at the start of a banned mass march aimed at thwarting next month’s general election.Hundreds of demonstrators, some throwing home-made bombs, battled police on Sunday as they tried to gather at the opposition’s headquarters and other places throughout Dhaka for the so-called “March for Democracy”.

The opposition says an election scheduled for January 5 must be held under a neutral caretaker government, as in the past, to prevent ballot-rigging.

BNP leader Khaleda Zia, a two-time former prime minister and Hasina’s arch-rival, has urged supporters to defy the ban on Sunday’s march and converge on the capital.

In Rampura neighbourhood, more than 200 demonstrators threw small bombs at police who responded with shotgun blasts during clashes there that left one person dead, a senior officer said.

Police have banned the so-called “March for Democracy” amid fears that the rally would become a focal point for more unrest after what has already been the deadliest year of political violence in the country’s history.

Police have detained more than 750 opposition supporters as a “preventive measure”, while authorities have suspended Dhaka-bound bus, ferry and train services, virtually cutting off the city from the rest of the country.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies have staged weeks of deadly protests, strikes and transport blockades to try to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to resign. Dozens of people have been killed.

Sticks and rocks

Running battles erupted between police and protesters near the BNP headquarters where Zia was scheduled later Sunday to address the rally, TV footage showed.

Ruling party activists, armed with sticks and rocks, also clashed with opposition protesters outside the press club.

Scores of police stopped Khaleda Zia’s car as it tried to drive from her house to the march in the capital, where hundreds of her supporters are clashing with security forces, aide Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury said.

“Khaleda Zia boarded her car and tried to leave her house to lead the march. But police barred her car from leaving,” Chowdhury, who is also a vice-president of Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party, told AFP news agency.

Police and security forces have conducted nationwide raids, searching trains and buses to arrest opposition supporters.

They have also set up check posts for passengers and commuters at the entry points to Dhaka.

Security has been tight in the city with around 11,000 officers and the elite Rapid Action Battalion patrolling the streets and key flashpoints.

 

Thai protests escalate amid violence – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Thai protests escalate amid violence – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

Tension continues to rise in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, after the dispersal of red-shirted government supporters following deadly clashes with opposition demonstrators.

Riot police fired tear-gas at protesters trying to force their way into the office compound of the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and Bangkok’s police headquarters on Sunday.

Reporters saw anti-government protesters trying to destroy concrete barriers outside Government House. Police fired tear gas and water cannons to push them back. Separately, police drove back another crowd of protesters at the Bangkok police headquarters.

About 150 nervous-looking government supporters remained at Rajamangala Stadium in northeastern Bangkok early on Sunday morning, waiting for transport, Al Jazeera Online’s Robert Kennedy reported.

An estimated 50,000 Red Shirts had converged on the site the night before.

Government officials have confirmed that four people died and 58 others sustained injuries in Saturday’s violence.

Leader of anti-government protests calls for escalation

 

The government supporters had been ordered to leave the stadium by Red Shirt leader Thida Thavornseth, who said it remained too dangerous after a night of violence between the rival groups.

The stadium was littered with plastic bags, and water and beer bottles, amid the heavy stench of rotting garbage and urine.

“Our leaders told us to go home because they were too worried that people would be killed or injured,” said 56-year-old Aree Sawangjai, who travelled from the neighbouring province of Samut Sakorn to support the government amid the protests.

Outside the stadium, students from Ramkhamhaeng University opposed to the Red Shirts and the government blocked off roads to the area.

Lorries carrying medical workers were parked nearby on alert.

Across the city, anti-government protesters stormed a police sports complex on Sunday morning, amid plumes of tear gas, as Yingluck was swept away to safety by security forces.

She was now in a secure location which will remain undisclosed, an aide told Reuters news agency.

Siege of ministries

Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Bangkok on Sunday, said the dispersal of the Red Shirts may embolden the yellow-shirted opposition protesters.

“The anti-government group plan to take over 10 government facilities, and say today is the day that the government will fall,” he said.

The protesters have been occupying several government ministries for the past week.

On Sunday morning, they took control of broadcaster Thai PBS, according to reports.

At the Royal Thai Police headquarters, several thousand protesters were blowing whistles and screaming at riot police behind a razor-wire barricade, Al Jazeera Online’s Kennedy said.

“About 20 police officers who cordoned off Rama 1 Road were challenged by some 100 angry demonstrators. ‘Go away slaves. Go away,’ they shouted. Officers retreated across the street, satisfying the crowd, though taunts and jeers continued,” he said.

The demonstrators are seeking to topple Yingluck’s government, which they believe serves the interests of her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled as prime minister by a 2006 military coup after being accused of corruption and abuse of power.

Yingluck’s administration had been attempting to push through an amnesty bill, which many here believe would facilitate Thaksin’s return to power.

 

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