msnbc News   |  May 17, 2010

Bangkok paralyzed over anti-government violence

Msnbc's Jeff Rossen talks with the New York Times' Thomas Fuller about violence in Thailand, and the anti-government leader who died after being shot during an interview last week.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> right now in bangkok , anti-government protesters are holding their ground refusing to leave their compound despite a government deadline. the crisis has absolutely paralyzed parts of that city leaving it looking like a war zone with 66 dead so far, among them a key leader helping protesters. the general died overnight after he was shot last thursday while being interviewed by a reporter from the "new york times." that correspondent from the "times," thomas fuller is joining us from bangkok . thanks for joining us.

>> hi, jeff.

>> we're getting breaking news as we've had you on hold from bangkok . an aide to the prime minister said a red shirt leader called him to propose a cease-fire. have you heard anything about that? probably not. we're just getting word of it.

>> reporter: it's not surprising. there really have been negotiations on and off. as you can imagine these protesters who are in this encampment in the middle of bangkok surrounded by fighting, surrounded by troops, are very anxious. you know, i think there are some among them, it's not clear if it's all, who would like to call this off and go home and get out without being shot.

>> for viewers who have been following this day by day , can you basically explain what this protest is about and what's happening there?

>> well, it's a long-running dispute in thailand going on for four years. it stems from a coup in 2006 . basically the people who got kicked out on the coup, a government and tycoon turned prime minister who got kicked out in the coup, it's his supporters on the street. they want the government to resign. it's revealed the society the king who held the country together is ailing. if you have a country who is basically under a lot of strain and has a lot of divisions and those are the bigger symptoms of what we see on the streets today, which is chaos.

>> as i mentioned, you were right next to the general when he was shot. he had just finished up an interview with you. why was he a target and what was it like in those chaotic moments when you were just feet away?

>> well, this general had a lot of enemies. it's very -- it's not clear who assassinated him. he was a real hard-liner in this protest movement. he didn't want the protest to end. a lot of the other leaders wanted to call it a day . they thought they had gotten what they wanted because the government offered elections. and he was a renegade general. he was a general who joined these protesters, joined these anti-government protesters. so obviously he lost some friends in the military that way as well. as for what it was like, well, it was terrible, obviously. he was standing right in front of me. it seems like a sniper picked him off from a building, or some sort of place right in the area. he just collapsed and today he died this morning after being on life support for four days.

>> thomas fuller from the "new york times." thanks so much and be safe there in the middle of bangkok , in the middle of what appears to be a war zone from the video we're seeing. thanks, sir.