Riots erupt after top Red Shirts surrender

Rioting and fires swept Bangkok on Wednesday after troops stormed a protest encampment, forcing protest leaders to surrender, but sparking clashes that killed at least six people and triggered unrest in northern Thailand.
Protesters torched five buildings, including the Thai stock exchange and Central World, Southeast Asia’s second-biggest department store complex, and attacked local Channel 3 television station as riots spread across the city of 15 million people.
Power was lost in typically bustling Sukhumvit Road district, an area packed with tourists and high-end residential complexes, just hours after the Army said the situation involving thousands of anti-government protesters was under control.
The chaos followed a military operation in the morning in which troops in armoured vehicles and firing semi-automatic weapons advanced on an area occupied for more than six weeks by thousands of the Red Shirt demonstrators. As they surrounded the main protest site, top protest leaders offered to surrender, as supporters urged them to fight on, many screaming and crying as gun fire rang out nearby.
Moments later, live television showed four “Red Shirt” protest leaders in police custody and an Army spokesman said in a television broadcast the protest site was under Army control.
But that didn’t stop the unrest after six days of chaotic street fighting between protesters and troops that descended into urban warfare, killing 39 people and wounded 329. Minutes after they surrendered, three grenades exploded outside the main protest site, badly wounding two soldiers and a foreign journalist, a Reuters witness said. Several media organisations including the Bangkok Post and the Nation newspapers evacuated their office after a threat from protesters accusing them of biased reporting.
Meanwhile, a night curfew has come into force in Bangkok, the first declared in the Thai capital since 1992. The curfew was enforced on Wednesday following an Army assault on the anti-government protesters. Violence also spread to northeast Thailand, a Red Shirt stronghold, where protesters stormed a town hall complex in the city of Udon Thani, setting a building ablaze, and torched a second town hall in Khon Kaen. Three journalists were among 50 people wounded and one Western journalist, identified as an Italian, was killed.

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Tourists get curfew waiver
Bangkok : Foreign tourists and Thai travellers will be allowed to go to Bangkok airports on Wed-nesday night, getting a waiver from a curfew imp-osed by the authorities, government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.
Mr Wattanayagorn announced on television that the curfew relaxation would be extended to those carrying passports and travel documents. PM Abhisit Vejjajiva imposed a curfew in Bangkok on Wednesday from 8 pm until 6 am on Thursday. The curfew — details of which were read out on national television — was ordered to let security authorities perform their duty, Mr Vejjajiva said in the order. Government spokesman Panitan later said on TV that the curfew might be imposed in other Thai provinces covered by a state of emergency announced by the authorities if public disorder seen in Bangkok spread to other areas. He said security officials would help Thais and foreigners who need to go to hospital during the curfew. —Reuters

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