Order restored after deadly Bangkok battles

Riot police stand guard at a Government office. Violence-weary residents of Bangkok worked to clean and rebuild their city on Friday after a week of mayhem. Photo: AP  

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva pledged to work for national reconciliation on Friday after a week of mayhem devastated parts of Bangkok and left 52 people dead and 401 injured.

“We have restored order in the capital of Bangkok and in the provinces of Thailand,” Mr. Abhisit said in a televised speech. “There are huge challenges ahead of us, particularly the challenge of overcoming the divisions that have occurred in the country.” Mr. Abhisit said his government would go forward with a reconciliation plan based on participation, democracy and justice. But he did not make clear whether this plan would include an early dissolution of parliament and a November election as he previously proposed.

Rejection of that “road map” plan by anti—government protestors led to the army’s attack on Wednesday on their protest site in the central Bangkok district of Ratchaprasong.

Fifteen people were killed and another 103 wounded in the assault and bloody rioting that night, Bangkok’sErawan Emergency Centre said.

The city government said more than 300 incidents of rioters vandalizing public property had been reported since Wednesday with 36 buildings destroyed or damaged by arson attacks.

A curfew of 9 pm to 5 am was in force until at least Sunday morning, and the skytrain and subway transit systems remained out of service. Government offices were closed until Monday.

Parts of Rama IV Road, which cuts through the centre of the city and was the scene of fierce clashes between troops and rioters, remained a shambles on Friday with burnt tyres, trash and the smoldering ruins of many ruined shops and food stalls littering the area.

Military officials said it would be at least another day or two until the Ratchaprasong area, home to some of the city’s most luxurious shopping malls and hotels, could be reopened to the public.

The Bangkok Post website quoted Lieutenant General Dapong Rattanasuwan as saying security officials entering the area on Thursday found gas tanks hidden inside the Four Seasons Hotel that were wired with explosives and ready to go off.

Military officials also claimed to have found a cache of weapons in and around the protest site, including 45 M—79 grenades, a launcher and and an M—16 assault rifle.

A large part of Central World, one of the biggest shopping centres in Asia, collapsed after it was set alight by angry protestors when troops and armoured vehicles moved in on Wednesday.

Central World is part of the Central Department Group, deemed a supporter of Thailand’s bureaucratic elite, which was vilified by the demonstration’s leaders, who painted their movement as a “class war” and “people’s revolution.” Protestors also set fire to 10 branches of Bangkok Bank, another business group deemed close to the establishment, and an 11th branch was set on fire west of Bangkok on Thursday night.

The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), which is supported politically and financially by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, started demonstrating in Bangkok on March 12.

They took over the Ratchaprasong area April 3, vowing to remain until all their demands were met.

When the army moved in on the district on Wednesday and the UDD leaders surrendered to the police, a group of militants among the protestors went on the rampage, hitting specific targets deemed to be allied to their enemies.

Their ranks were swelled by thousands of young men from the city’s slums who set fires and looted shops in and around the main protest area.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 2:32:50 PM |

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