Thai Hospital Evacuated after Stormed by Protesters

BANGKOK

A major hospital in the Thai capital evacuated most of its patients on Friday after anti-government “Red Shirt” protesters stormed inside in the mistaken belief that troops were hiding there.

Chulalongkorn Hospital also stopped receiving outpatients following the Thursday night incident, in which some 100 Red Shirt guards searched its buildings for troops they feared were readying a crackdown.

Tensions are high in Bangkok following the worst political violence in almost two decades which has left 27 people dead and almost 1,000 injured this month in a series of bloody confrontations.

The 1,400-bed hospital sent most of its patients to 10 other facilities in Bangkok and was considering how to cope with the protesters occupying a large part of the city’s nearby commercial district, a spokeswoman said.

“For outpatients, if their symptoms are not serious we asked them to postpone treatment,” the spokeswoman said.

A Red Shirt leader publicly apologised Friday, saying guards told demonstration leaders that they saw soldiers inside the hospital located near one of their main barricades.

“On behalf of all leaders, I apologise to the public and Chulalongkorn Hospital for the incident,” Weng Tojirakarn said. “The situation got out of control.

“It is not our policy to obstruct hospital operations.”

Thailand’s Medical Council slammed the Reds’ action and asked protesters to respect medical personnel.

“All parties must refrain from exploiting hospital grounds for political gain,” the council said in a statement.

The Reds — who want immediate elections to replace Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government — have periodically clashed with security forces during their occupation of sections of the Thai capital for the past month.

Many of the Reds come from Thailand’s rural poor and urban working classes and seek the return of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and now lives overseas to avoid a jail term for corruption.

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