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BANGKOK — Anti-government protesters repulsed an attempt by the military to disperse them Saturday night in a fierce running battle filled with tear gas, gunfire and explosions that left at least 11 people dead and more than 500 wounded.
After a month of nonviolent tolerance, the failure of the government to end the protests by force left it with few options. Protest leaders, standing on a makeshift stage after the military withdrew, rejected a government plea for talks and repeated their demand that it step down and call a new election.
In the afternoon, soldiers attacked the main site where protesters have camped for nearly a month, and dispersed the crowd with tear gas, rubber bullets and some live rounds, although a military spokesman said those rounds had only been fired into the air.
“Do not think that the government will win” even if it succeeds in dispersing the demonstrators, said Nattawut Saikua, one of the leaders. “This is just the first round.”