The death toll in Thailand's latest round of street violence has reached at least 36 people, as security forces and anti-government protestors continue their angry standoff.
About 5,000 demonstrators remain encamped in Bangkok's central business district, where for more than two months they have pressed demands that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolve his government and call new elections. Escalating clashes between the protestors and the military have stoked fears that the fighting may spread beyond the capital. Beyond politics, they have also exposed a deep split in Thai society.
Both sides say they are open to negotiation in the dispute, which has claimed a total of 65 lives, injured more than 250, and damaged the Thai economy and one of its leading industries, tourism. Talks between the government and the protestors have a history of collapsing, however. A political deal that would have ended the protests and resulted in new elections seemed close earlier this month. Although that agreement ultimately foundered, a political settlement remains achievable.
As a long-time friend of Thailand, the United States is very concerned about the violence and is monitoring the situation closely. It is in the best interest of all parties to get back together to resolve their differences through peaceful means. The U.S. urges all concerned to show restraint. Amid the high feelings seen on both sides, peaceful negotiation is the best and indeed the only way to develop the peaceful and inclusive society being sought. The United States strongly supports the Thai nation and its people during this difficult period.