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Thai Authorities Extend Curfew, Fearing More Unrest

  • Daniel Schearf

Thai authorities have extended a 10-hour curfew to cover 23 provinces, apparently fearing unrest in the Thai capital could spread throughout the country. Thai authorities say troops in Bangkok are working to restore order after a new assault ended a nine-week, anti-government protest, leaving at least six people dead and scores injured.

The night-time curfew was announced as protesters angry at a government crackdown looted and set fire to buildings in parts of the Thai capital.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said soldiers stabilized areas previously occupied by protesters, but acknowledged peace was not yet restored.

"We are still facing with a few pockets of trouble in several places in Bangkok," he said. "We would like to ask for your cooperation to remain in your own household."

Reports of unrest in other provinces and the curfew extension reveals fears of more violence following clashes with soldiers clearing protesters. The military used armored personnel carriers to knock down protest barricades that have for weeks shut down parts of Bangkok.

Despite claimes by protesters that they were unarmed, soldiers encountered gunfire as they moved towards the main demonstration area in a central Bangkok commercial district, resulting in several casualties.

Soldiers showed journalists live bullets they say were found in the protest camp, as well as about 15 protesters they had tied up, including two Buddhist monks, apparently suspected of violent acts.

As soldiers moved in on demonstrators, protest leaders turned themselves in to police and urged demonstrators to go home to avoid further bloodshed. But some mobs of protesters turned on the buildings and shopping malls in the area they have been occupying, leading the government to declare the curfew.

The protesters, known as Red Shirts, say democracy was stolen from them with the 2006 coup that removed former Prime Pinister Thaksin Shinawatra, and questionable court rulings that removed governments friendly to him.

Thousands of demonstrators had for nine weeks camped under tents on Bangkok streets, demanding the government step down and allow new elections.

An agreement two weeks ago for November elections fell apart after protesters demanded government leaders face charges for April violence. But the government on Thursday chose instead to squeeze the protesters with a military blockade that led to daily street fighting and the crackdown.

Once peace is restored, Thai authorities will face the difficult task of reconciliation in a deeply divided and now scarred nation.

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