[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Tuesday called for an investigation [public statement, PDF] into the deaths of 25 people during recent anti-government protests. The group stated that it would welcome a pledge by the Thai government to "investigate promptly, effectively, and impartially the recent violence," and urges it to "provide accountability for any violations by security forces as well as abuses by violent protesters." The protesters, known as red shirts [BBC backgrounder], claim [BBC report] that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official profile; JURIST news archive] came to power illegitimately and that he should resign and call for elections. After the death toll rose to 21, the Thai army was called in [BBC reports] on Monday to prevent the protests from spreading into Bangkok's financial district. While AI's statement recognized that the military's use of force may have been justified by the fact that some of the protesters were armed with guns and grenades, the group also urged the Thai government to adhere to international principles on crowd dispersal and the use of force. Such principles dictate that law enforcement officials may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimum extent necessary
The protests are currently in their sixth week and have led to an increasingly hostile political climate in Thailand. Earlier this month, a Thai court issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for at least 17 high-profile protesters, including top red shirt officials. Abhisit hopes that the arrest warrants will encourage the protesters to disperse. Abhisit was forced to declare a state of emergency earlier this month after a Thai court refused to issue an injunction [JURIST reports] against the protesters. The protesters are supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was removed from power [JURIST report] during a 2006 military coup. Thaksin was convicted [JURIST report] in absentia on corruption charges in October 2008. Despite the conviction, the Cambodian government refused to extradite [JURIST report] the ousted prime minister to face a two-year prison sentence.