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Clashes, fires roil Bangkok despite red-shirt protest leaders' surrender

Protesters burned buildings around Bangkok Wednesday even after troops overran the red-shirt camp and their leaders surrendered. Clashes left five people dead.

Thai soldiers walk through an antigovernment barricade during a military crackdown Wednesday, in Bangkok, Thailand. Leaders of the red-shirt protesters have surrendered to authorities after a deadly Army assault on their fortified encampment.

Wason Wanichakorn/AP

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Thai troops punched into a downtown protest camp Wednesday, ending a five-week rally but failing to stop violent unrest spreading around the capital as a nighttime curfew was declared.

Leaders of the red-shirt protesters, who draw support from rural and working-class followers, surrendered to police in the early afternoon, when it became clear after a dawn assault that troops using armored personnel carriers and helicopters had taken control of the site.

The leaders told the crowd from a stage under an elevated train line that they were surrendering to avert further bloodshed. The announcement drew boos from some red shirts, though others held aloft photos of the leaders as they sat on the road.

But as the rally wound down, nearby department stores were set ablaze, part of a wave of arson attacks that have gathered pace in recent days. Across the city, pockets of resistance seemed to grow stronger as angry mobs torched buildings and tire barricades, sending black fumes into the sky. Fire trucks struggled to reach the scene, and gunfire and explosions echoed around neighborhoods where power supplies were cut. The stock exchange, a TV station, and banks were set ablaze.

Authorities said five people died in the takeover of the red-shirt camp. An Italian journalist was among the dead. Gunfights erupted around a park where militant reds were spotted. Troops advanced slowly into the barricaded site, a prime commercial district that once hummed with foreign tourists but has been turned into a vast squatter camp.


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