05/19/2010, 00.00
THAILAND
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Bangkok: "red shirts" surrender. An Italian reporter killed

Final offensive against anti-government protesters. Death toll now stands at five dead and dozens injured. Captured leaders of the revolt. Thaksin: resentment could turn revolt into "guerrilla" war.

Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Five dead, including an Italian photojournalist, and dozens of wounded, that is the toll from the Thai army’s final assault against the stronghold of anti-government rebels. The military is authorized to "shoot on sight" against anyone who tries to set fire or plunder. The leaders of the “red shirts” have announced their surrender to authorities. Some leaders of the revolt were arrested; the army has regained control of the area occupied.

This morning, the military aboard armoured vehicles began their assault on the stronghold of the "red shirts" - the movement of opposition United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), close to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra – who have been barricaded for weeks in the commercial district of the capital. It is the sixth day of violent clashes between the army and demonstrators, which has so far caused at least 43 dead and hundreds of injured. One soldier quoted by the Associated Press, described the day today as "D-Day.

Of the five victims there is also an Italian photojournalist Fabio Polenghi, 45, shot in the abdomen and chest by bullets fired during clashes between the army and demonstrators. He arrived in hospital, "already a corpse." A Dutch colleague, Michel Maas, who works for a public television based in Jakarta, was wounded in the shoulder by a bullet, but it is not life threatening.

The Thai government confirms that security operations continue throughout the day. The Executive confirms that it is open to dialogue, but only if the protesters will leave the streets. However, leaders of the "red shirts" have surrendered and made many of the leaders fled; others were captured by army units. The anti-government protests, which began in March last year, seem destined to end, leaving behind 70 dead and 1700 injured. Meanwhile, exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has warned the government that a "show of military force could fuel resentment, transforming the protesters into "guerrillas”. The Thai billionaire, considered the creator and the true leader of the "red"revolt against the Government, was speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location.

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