Thailand extends curfew as hardline protesters fight on
Thailand has imposed three more days of curfew in Bangkok and 23 other provinces as the military extended its operations to crush an anti-government protest movement.
One day after the army moved into the Red Shirt protestor encampment in the centre of the capital, sparking a night of violence in which 35 buildings were torched, residents of Bangkok were struggling to regain some sort of normality.
But the extension of the first curfew in 18 years was a sign that the chaos of recent months and days had not been banished by the extensive army deployment.
In announcing the curfew would stretch until Sunday, officials said rioting of the part 24 hours had been systematically planned. Col Sansern Kawekamnerd, an army spokesman, said a cache of bombs, "war ammunition" and guns including AK-47 and M-16 automatic rifles in the crackdown had been found at opposition strongholds.
"Such violence couldn't happen without systematic planning," said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn. "The security forces will continue operations to restore order and arrest those involved in terrorism."
Buildings smouldered across the city centre and troops exchanged sporadic fire with pockets of holdouts after the army routed anti-government protesters in a push to end Thailand's deadliest political violence in nearly 20 years.
The government quelled most of the violence in the battered Thai capital after a major military operation that killed at least 13 people and left 88 wounded.
But underlying political divisions that caused Thailand's crisis may have been exacerbated, and unrest spread to provinces in the north and northeast.
While leaders of the anti-government Red Shirt movement surrendered, sporadic clashes between troops and remaining protesters continued.
As night fell on Wednesday, the skyline was blotted by flashes of fire and black smoke from more than two dozen buildings set ablaze including Thailand's stock exchange, main power company, banks, a movie theatre and one of Asia's largest shopping malls.
On Thursday morning, troops in the central business district, occupied by protesters for weeks, exchanged occasional fire with holdouts as locals in the area looted a vast tent city the activists had cobbled together.
A special police unit entered a temple inside the former protest site where several hundred Red Shirt supporters, most of them women, old men and children, had sought shelter.
Some cried and many were fearful that they would be incarcerated by the military and others remained defiant.
"We won. We won. The Red Shirts will rise again," shouted one woman.
Since the Red Shirts began their protest in mid-March, at least 75 people - mostly civilians - have been killed and nearly 1,800 wounded.
Of those, 46 people have died in clashes that started May 13 after the army tried to blockade their 1-square-mile camp.
Six bodies were found at the temple.
Elsewhere in the city, municipal workers removed debris and collected piles of garbage left in the streets that had been cordoned off by authorities for the past week.
Thanom Ornketpol, a spokesman for Bangkok city, said there had been a total of 35 arson attacks since Wednesday, with targets also including office buildings, gold shops, a hotel, government offices and convenience stores.