The curfew in Bangkok has been extended by a further three nights as Thai troops attempt to storm the anti-government protesters’ camp and weed out the ringleaders.
The unrest has severely hit Thailand’s tourism industry. Passengers at the main Bangkok airport have been halved to 60,000-70,000 daily and flights have been cut to 600 from 750 a day, according to the state Thai News agency.
However the army insisted the violence was now under control following yesterday’s outburst which claimed a further 14 lives.
The Red Shirts torched more than 17 buildings including the stock exchange, a TV station and Central World department store, one of the largest in Asia.
The government imposed a strict night-time curfew for the city and imposed controls on television station broadcasts.
Last night the army push to clear the encampment that had been occupied by the Red Shirts for the past six weeks.
Hundreds of protestors who had taken refuge in a nearby temple were eventually coaxed out by police with loudspeakers.
Six bodies were later found inside, bringing yesterday’s death toll to at least 14.
The stock exchange was badly damaged by fire. The market will be closed today and tomorrow and the Bank of Thailand said banks around the country would also stay shut. The whole week has been declared a public holiday in an effort to keep people out of central Bangkok.
Authorities imposed the curfew across 23 provinces, about a third of the country, after outbursts of unrest in seven regions, particularly in the north, a Red Shirt stronghold. Over 40 people have been killed and 300 hurt in the past week.
It is hope that yesterday’s surrender of Red Shirt leaders will lead to an end to the violence that has killed at least 50 people and wounded nearly 400 in six days. It could also put the focus back on early elections and the “reconciliation roadmap” proposed by the prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, before the unrest.
The protesters are mostly drawn from the rural and urban poor and largely back the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in the 2006 coup.
The Red Shirts started demonstrating in mid-March, demanding that the government step down and elections be held.
Thaksin warned yesterday that the country faced more civil unrest. “There is a theory saying a military crackdown can spread resentment and these resentful people will become guerrillas,” he said.