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Bangkok Gripped By Looting And Arson

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Thai capital gripped by looting and arson

by Anusak Konglang

BANGKOK, May 19, 2010 (AFP) -- Huge fires swept through major buildings in central Bangkok on Wednesday as looting and arson gripped the Thai capital after a deadly army crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Plumes of black smoke billowed across the skyline in the aftermath of the military operation against the protesters' fortified camp which left at least five people dead and led the leaders of the "Red Shirt" movement to surrender.

The authorities said enraged protesters -- some wearing black and carrying automatic weapons -- went on the rampage and set fire to at least 15 buildings.

Military officials told AFP a helicopter had been dispatched to try to rescue at least 100 people trapped in the offices of the Channel 3 TV station after it was attacked and set on fire.

Blazes were also reported at Central World, one of Southeast Asia's largest shopping centres, the Stock Exchange of Thailand, a branch of an electricity company and a bank.

The government imposed an 8:00 pm (1300 GMT) to 6:00 am curfew on Bangkok in a bid to quell the eruption of violence but the authorities admitted that parts of the capital were still outside their control.

"Tonight will be another night of suffering," said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.

"The government calls on everyone who is carrying out attacks to stop that action because their leaders have already surrendered and agreed to enter into national reconciliation," he said.

The unrest began when armoured vehicles backed by armed troops firing live rounds smashed through barricades erected around the Red Shirts' sprawling base.

A tearful protest leader later announced on stage that the Reds would end their occupation of the upscale shopping and hotel district in the heart of the capital where they have been camped for six weeks.

At least four top Reds later went to the police headquarters nearby to give themselves up. The government said earlier some others had already fled.

An Italian photographer was among those shot dead during the clashes at one end of the rally base, which stretched for several kilometres (miles) and had been fortified with barricades made with tyres, bamboo stakes and razor wire.

Four more people died and "many" were wounded, said a police spokesman, Major General Piya Uthayo. The Police Hospital said 19 people were wounded, including several other foreign journalists.

An AFP photographer saw two protesters lying dead on the ground after being shot in the head when troops pushed into the encampment.

"I got shot from behind through the shoulder. It's just a flesh wound," a reporter with Dutch national TV, Michel Maas, told AFP at the hospital.

Another journalist, a Canadian, and four soldiers were also badly wounded by grenade attacks inside the camp, AFP witnesses saw.

Piya said police had deployed about 1,000 rapid movement officers who were authorised to shoot on sight anyone looting, committing arson or inciting unrest, following several days of urban warfare in the capital.

The Red Shirts had defied a government deadline to leave by Monday. A military lockdown to seal off the site that was launched last Thursday had left more than 40 dead in six days of violence.

Several thousand protesters, including many women and children, were inside the rally base when the army moved in.

Some were openly crying and others put on face masks in fear of tear gas attacks. Their leaders later asked them to disperse and walk towards an area where the government had laid on buses to take them away.

Hundreds of army and police had advanced towards the protest zone in the pre-dawn hours, with trucks dropping off troops wearing balaclavas and carrying weapons and riot shields, while a helicopter circled overhead.

The Reds are campaigning for elections to replace the administration of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, which they consider illegitimate because it came to power with the backing of the army in a 2008 parliamentary vote.

They are mostly supporters of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a 2006 coup. A controversial court ruling ejected his elected allies from power, paving the way for Abhisit's government to be appointed.

Many countries have warned their nations against travelling to Thailand. Australia Wednesday said travellers should not visit Bangkok, citing the deteriorating security situation.

afplogo.jpg

-- ©Copyright AFP 2010-05-19

Published with written approval from AFP.

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Dear Thaksin,

There is no pit in hel_l low enough for you. Your role in the suffering of Thailand will be a permanent stain on Thai history. A human travesty.

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Dear Thaksin,

There is no pit in hel_l low enough for you. Your role in the suffering of Thailand will be a permanent stain on Thai history. A human travesty.

I`m just wondering how Abhisit is going to look after this,as his handling of all this has been pretty inept if indeed he was in control, He has something in common with Thaksin as they are both on amnesty internationals human rights list.

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Dear Thaksin,

There is no pit in hel_l low enough for you. Your role in the suffering of Thailand will be a permanent stain on Thai history. A human travesty.

I guess the red shirt leaders (and their cheerleaders here) are happy with what they have brought. And the trail all leads back to Thaksin. He could have stopped this 6 weeks ago but chose to put a quick stop on the offer of November elections.

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Dear Thaksin,

Do you have no shame? can you not see what one mans greed can do to your fellow Thai?..

..the red shirts? i wouldnt trust them to run a piss up in a brewery.

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What a shame....these animals didn't get a tenth of what they deserve.

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Time to set aside the blame game and prey for peace..........

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Dear Thaksin,

There is no pit in hel_l low enough for you. Your role in the suffering of Thailand will be a permanent stain on Thai history. A human travesty.

Let the law of Karma do its job!

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Time to set aside the blame game and prey for peace..........

On the contrary, it should never be forgotten what the red shirts have done to the country. Shame on them and their tyrant leader Thaksin.

Thank you Abhisit for finally taking strong action. I just wish that this had been done a month ago. better later than never though.

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Actually it started with Abhisit, who knew very well what would be the outcome of a harsh crackdown, yet insanly and irresponsibly proceeded with it.

Of course, blaming everything on Thaksin is the convinient excuse that relieves one of using the grey matter... as to the real cause of the problem.

There is some relief knowing that one day Abhisit will pay for his crimes behind bars.

Harsh crackdown , it could of been alot worse ! What is / was he supposed to do sit there and watch Bangkok be held hostage by these thugs ? Let them continuously attack the army with bricks, sticks , petrolbombs , and believe it or not GUNS ? Was he supposed to just sit there and let this happen?

Hopefully the remainder of the rioting scum are taken of the streets tonight !

Long live Thailand and the King !

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Actually it started with Abhisit, who knew very well what would be the outcome of a harsh crackdown, yet insanly and irresponsibly proceeded with it.

Of course, blaming everything on Thaksin is the convinient excuse that relieves one of using the grey matter... as to the real cause of the problem.

There is some relief knowing that one day Abhisit will pay for his crimes behind bars.

What harsh crackdown? The reds are rioting because their leaders surrendered.

And where is the international condemnation? There isn't any, since every western country would have dealt with this in exactly the same way, or in a way leading to even more deaths.

Edited by whybother

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Actually it started with Abhisit, who knew very well what would be the outcome of a harsh crackdown, yet insanly and irresponsibly proceeded with it.

Of course, blaming everything on Thaksin is the convinient excuse that relieves one of using the grey matter... as to the real cause of the problem.

There is some relief knowing that one day Abhisit will pay for his crimes behind bars.

Absolute horse excrement troll. In nearly every other Country the protests would have ended weeks ago with far more loss of life. It is not Abhisit's fault that he inherited a completely dysfunctional police force and an army showing factional splits. But then you know this very well but you are a troll.

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Time to set aside the blame game and prey for peace..........

On the contrary, it should never be forgotten what the red shirts have done to the country. Shame on them and their tyrant leader Thaksin.

Thank you Abhisit for finally taking strong action. I just wish that this had been done a month ago. better later than never though.

Well I am saddened about all these and I hope Thai government lax policy about these terrorist brought us to this state of terror. Now understand these people motives, and I hope will never allow them to participate in any political rally demonstrations since they can never be trusted ever again

Also I would hope the people of Bangkok will keep this in mind and will never any of the Red Shirt leader to live in peace anywhere in the word. Their blood should be the ones spelled instead of many who were stupid enough to follow them

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What a shame....these animals didn't get a tenth of what they deserve.

How dare you call these people "animals". So what did they deserve?

Your type were burning wiches at the stake 800 years ago in the name of God.

You cannot accuse the entire body of protestors of arson just because a few bad eggs decided to start fires.

The army were using their directive to shoot on sight looters and arsonists as an excuse to kill innocent people. It is not a difficult task to clear 5,000 unarmed protestors with live amunition and tanks. This was no victory.

Edited by tropo

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