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Thai Government Declares Curfew in Bangkok

Thai Red Shirt anti-government protest leaders Nattawut Saikuar (2L) and Wiphuthalang (3R, blue cap) are arrested by police officers after they announced to the crowd their surrender on the stage inside the protesters' camp in downtown Bangkok, 19 May 201

The Thai government has declared an overnight curfew for the capital, Bangkok, as violence swept across the capital after military operations brought an end to a two-month long, anti-government protest in in the central part of the city. At least 6 people were reported dead in the latest violence, including an Italian photojournalist, the second foreign reporter to die since the protests began in mid-March.

Leaders of the anti-government protesters, known as the Red Shirts, surrendered to police and told demonstrators they were ending the extended rally in order to avoid further bloodshed. Some of the anti-government leaders fled the area as the military moved in. Amid the chaos, arson attacks broke out across Bangkok at power stations, malls, media outlets and other buildings. Rioters also commandeered public buses.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, the government spokesman, said problem areas remained in the city, after the military's early-morning raid on the Rajaprasong campsite occupied by the anti-government protesters.

"We are now facing a few pockets of trouble in several places in Bangkok. We would like to ask for your cooperation to remain in your own households. The government has declared curfew as you may already know tonight starting from 8 pm to 6 am in the morning."

The declaration followed a day of rising violence after the dawn operation by hundreds of police and soldiers against the anti-government protesters. Along with the Italian journalist, at least 5 protesters were killed. Scores of other people were wounded.

Earlier, as troops backed by armored personnel carriers had advanced toward Rajaprasong, explosions could be heard across the city and protesters set fire to rubber tires, sending large plumes of dark smoke skyward. In the financial district of Silom, the military warned the protesters to surrender, firing warning shots toward the camp site.

The military succeeded in retaking the Rajaprasong area together with a local park that had been occupied by Red Shirt protesters by early afternoon local time. The raid by security forces followed government efforts to negotiate an end to the protest rally with an offer to hold early elections. On Tuesday, the government refused last minute talks with the Red Shirt leaders.

A medical doctor, Dr. Chousak at the Bangkok Christian Hospital, said it was time for the government to act.

"The government has tried to do its best to resolve things with the least casualties. I think at this stage something definite has to be done to resolve things rather than let it drag on."

More than 60 people have been killed and 1,200 wounded in the past two months of protests and unrest. Many of the protesters remain supporters of former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a coup in 2006. In a statement, Mr. Thaksin sought to distance himself from the violence rejecting government charges he was the mastermind behind the rally.

The protests have been the most violent in Thailand in nearly two decades. The demonstrations have caused havoc to key areas of the economy such as tourism and economists have warned that economic growth may also be affected due to political uncertainties.

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