05/20/2010, 00.00
THAILAND
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Three-night curfew in Bangkok as fear of more violence lingers

The authorities have cleared the area occupied by the red-shirts. Some opposition leaders appeal for peace after surrendering to police. About 35 buildings were set on fire in the Thai capital, including the stock exchange. Yesterday’s clashes left 14 people dead. Overall, 82 people lost their lives since the protest began.
Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thai authorities restored order in Bangkok on Thursday but a ceasefire looked fragile, and the situation could collapse at any moment. The red-shirt protesters left the capital’s business district and some of their leaders have surrendered to police. In a temple, six bodies were found after hundreds of people who sought refuge there left the building. This brought to total death toll in yesterday’s violence to 14. Despite the apparent calm, the government extended the curfew for three more nights in the capital as well as 23 provinces.

Yesterday marked the end of the standoff when the military launched its final assault against the red-shirt stronghold, in the capital’s business district. For several weeks, Bangkok had been the scene of a virtual insurgency led by United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), which brought the country to the brink of total anarchy.

Gunfire, fires and destruction lasting several hours, marked the final moment of a protest that began peacefully enough in March, but escalated over time, plunging the nation into chaos.

In two months of confrontation, 82 people were killed and more than 1,800 wounded.

Although clashes were reported in northeastern Thailand, a largely farming region and a stronghold of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the bloodiest struggle took place in the capital, pitting the military against protesters, some of whom went on a rampage, torching stores, banks and TV stations.

Altogether 35 buildings have been set on fire, including that of the Metropolitan Electricity Authority, the Central World shopping complex, the Siam Theatre and the Center One shopping mall.

Six bodies were found inside a temple, killed by weapons of war as they tried to leave the area towards Pathumwan intersection. They are thought to have been killed between 5 and 6 pm, Wednesday.

When police moved in, the thousand or so protesters who had sought refuge left the temple grounds to avoid further bloodshed.

In a speech to the nation, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said that he was “confident and determined to end the problems and return the country to peace and order once again.”

This afternoon, three top protest leaders surrendered to police. They are Veera Musikhapong, Weng Tojirakarn and Korkaew Pikulthong. All three belong to the moderate wing of the protest movement and on several occasions sought a mediated solution with the authorities in order to avoid bloodshed.

Korkaew issued a statement calling on the red-shirts nationwide to stop rioting and for troops to stop shooting at people and return instead to their barracks

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