A meeting chaired by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva “agreed to impose the curfew to better secure the area and curtail their activities”, said Dithaporn Sasasmit, spokesman for the army-run Internal Security Operation Command.
A curfew was ordered in Bangkok and 23 provinces last night between 8pm and 6am to control looting and arson that broke out after the deadly campaign to close down the “Red Shirts” six-week occupation of central Bangkok.
However, the new curfew would be shortened to between 9pm and 5am, Dithaporn said, “to lessen the effect on the public”.
Gunfire near temple
An AFP photographer heard gunshots near a Buddhist temple in the heart of an anti-government protest zone in Bangkok, and saw soldiers advancing on foot along an elevated train track.
The gunshots stroke panic into the crowd of some 2,000 people who had gathered at the temple where the bodies of six people killed in a gunbattle the day before were laid out.
The crowd retreated into the temple for shelter, as a group of six or seven soldiers took up positions on the “Skytrain” track, and advanced towards the area.
Police puts death toll at nine
Police said nine people were killed yesterday in clashes at a temple declared a “safe zone” within a Thai anti-government rally site which was shut down in a military offensive.
Earlier the government said six people died when Thai security forces stormed the “Red Shirts” protest camp yesterday in a bloody assault that forced the surrender of the movement’s leaders who asked their supporters to disperse.
“Doctors and medical workers who went to the scene said they saw nine bodies inside the temple,” Police Operation Center spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri told AFP.
Prawut said a gunbattle raged at the temple in the early evening, several hours after the protest leaders surrendered and told supporters to disperse, as security forces struggled to control hardline elements in the movement.
Buildings on fire
Anti-government ‘Red Shirt’ protesters in Bangkok set more than two dozen buildings ablaze, in an upsurge of violence that prompted authorities to declare a curfew across about a third of the country.
Major blazes swept through Central World, one of Southeast Asia’s largest shopping centres, the Stock Exchange of Thailand, a downtown cinema, many banks and a television station where about 100 staff had to be rescued.
Unrest spreads to other parts of Thailand
The bloody crackdown inflamed unrest outside the capital as supporters in northeast Thailand set fire to at least two provincial halls.
Violence also broke out in northern Chiang Mai where people tried to burn buildings and throw home-made bombs after the Bangkok protests ended, but by late evening the situation was under control, local officials said.
Washington ‘deeply concerned’
Washington said it was “deeply concerned that ‘Red Shirt’ supporters have engaged in arson, targeting electricity infrastructure and media outlets and have attacked individual journalists,” said State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid.
“And we condemn such behavior and call on (their) leaders and affiliated opposition politicians to urge their supporters to stop such acts.”
UN chief expresses concern
UN chief Ban Ki-moon also expressed concern about the mounting level of violance and demanded efforts to end the crisis peacefully.
“He continues to urge that every measure be taken by both the Thai authorities and protesters to avoid any further violence and loss of life and to address issues peacefully,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
EU calls for reconciliation talks
The European Union insisted that reconciliation between the parties was no longer just an option.
“Thailand enters now a period where national reconciliation is not simply an option, it is absolutely mandatory,” EU parliament president Jerzy Buzek said in a statement.
“Too much blood has been spilled on the streets of Bangkok,” said Buzek. “I hope that the violent confrontation between governmental forces and protesters is finally approaching an end.”
Meanwhile Italian politicians paid tribute to Fabio Polenghi, an Italian photographer who died in clashes in Bangkok between the Thai military and protesters.
The “Red Shirts” have been campaigning for elections to replace the administration of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, which they consider illegitimate because it came to power with the backing of the army in 2008.