20 May 2010

Thai curfew extended as Bangkok still burns

8:58 pm on 20 May 2010

Thai authorities have extended the overnight curfew in Bangkok and 23 other provinces for three more days.

Fires are still burning in the centre of the city, following yesterday's Red Shirt riots in which 14 people were killed and 91 were injured.

An Italian photojournalist was among those killed.

The curfew is from 9pm to 5am, local time.

The capital remains tense. It's being reported that 27 fires are still burning in Bangkok and there are fears that Central World, one of South-East Asia's biggest shopping centres, could collapse: it was set ablaze by the protesters.

Thai police also say nine people were killed in clashes at a Buddhist temple where thousands of protesters sought shelter during the fighting on Wednesday. Police today escorted thousands of protesters out of the temple, where they had cowered overnight.

The army has denied any involvement in the killing of the nine and

has promised to launch an investigation into the deaths.

PM vows to restore peace

The government imposed the curfew after a military push that crushed the protest camp in the city centre and forced the Red Shirt leaders to surrender.

Troops were authorised to shoot looters and arsonists but that did not stop some angry protesters from going on a rampage of arson and looting. Plumes of black smoke billowed across the city skyline.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva gave a televised address saying his government would soon restore peace and order. He said he was confident and determined to end the problems.

New Zealander describes chaos

New Zealand paramedic Marko Cunningham, who has been working at the frontline in Bangkok, told Morning Report he saw three Red Shirt protesters gunned down about 200 metres from him. One was killed instantly.

Mr Cunningham says he saw looting all along the streets, and ATMs, windows and buses smashed as he left the downtown area.

He says buses out of the city were full and people who could not get onto them were nearly in tears.

Don't go there, travellers told

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says people should not travel to Bangkok, where there is an extreme risk to personal safety, or holiday in the rest of Thailand, where there's a high risk.

Ministry spokesperson Chris Wilson says New Zealanders intent on travelling to Thailand should register with the Ministry's "Safe Travel" website, and those already in Bangkok should consider leaving the city. Non-essential travel to the rest of Thailand should be deferred.

New Zealand's ambassador to Thailand, Bede Corry, says it seems that hardline factions among the protesters want to continue fighting.