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15 killed in Bangkok protests

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: 11 civilians and 4 security troops killed Saturday in anti-government clashes
  • NEW: Each side claims the other fired live rounds
  • Protesters defied a state of emergency Friday and held nationwide demonstrations
  • "Red shirt" protesters demanding new elections, say PM was not democratically elected

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- Fifteen people were killed Saturday in clashes between anti-government protesters and Thai police and military forces, according to emergency officials.

Erawan Emergency Center said 11 were civilians and four were military. At least 486 people were injured, the center said.

A Japanese cameraman with Thomson Reuters was among those killed, the news agency said. It identified him as Hiro Muramoto and said that he had been shot and killed.

Military and police forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to contain the protesters, who were trying to break into military barracks, state media reported. Video showed the protesters throwing objects at the security forces, who protected themselves with shields.

iReport: Watch an eyewitness video of protests

The forces later left and the streets quieted.

The protesters, known as the "Red Shirts," displayed bodies of two people, who they said were killed by live rounds fired by the troops.

"The government is so bad," said Samran Wangngam, who said he was the father of one of the protesters killed. "Why are they so cruel? How can they do this to my son?"

Col. Sansern Kawekamnerd, spokesman for the Royal Thai Army, said at a news conference that the security forces fired real bullets only into the air to scare away protesters.

Video: 'Red Shirts' storm TV compound
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However, he said the demonstrators fired real bullets at the security forces and that many security officers were injured.

iReport: Pictures of Bangkok protests

The protesters have been rallying for weeks to demand new elections. They are seeking to oust Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who they say was not democratically elected.

The opposition television channel, People Channel Television, was dark Saturday night after being back up briefly on Friday, according to state-run Thai News Agency. PTV is the primary communication channel between the Red Shirt leaders and the group's supporters in the provinces, the news agency said.

On Friday, the protesters stormed the compound of a satellite center that distributes a signal for PTV, which was shut down by the government. Abhisit said the station was shut down "to restore peace and order and to stop the spread of false information to the Thai public."

TNA reported that the protesters "successfully forced the reconnection of PTV" after thousands of activists stormed into the ground station compound.

Police and Thaicom satellite ground station executives negotiated with the protesters and agreed to their demands to reconnect the station, TNA reported. It was not immediately clear when the station was disconnected again.

The Red Shirt protesters and the military declared a temporary truce Saturday because of the bloodshed, leaders said. It was not immediately clear how long the truce would last.

Authorities on wednesday issued a state of emergency, allowing the military to break up large gatherings. The state of emergency also permits authorities to take certain actions, including arresting and searching people, without court orders.

Thai stocks have plunged more than 24 points, or about 3 percent, since Wednesday.

The anti-government group, United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, is composed of supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006. He fled the country in 2008 while facing trial on corruption charges that he says were politically motivated. He remains hugely popular.

CNN's Kocha Olarn contributed to this report

 
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