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DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Thai red shirt leaders Nattawut Saikuar (second left) and Wiphuthalang (third right) being led to a police station in Bangkok on Wednesday. - PHOTO: AFP
Bangkok: Thai troops and armour smashed through barricades and recaptured Bangkok's main commercial hub from anti-government protestors on Wednesday, but faced a widening security challenge as bands of arsonists attacked government offices and media targets elsewhere in the city and in several north-eastern provinces.
Leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) — also known as the red shirt rebellion — surrendered to police after armoured vehicles broke through barricades of rubber tyres and bamboo sticks on the periphery of the main Ratchaprasong protest site. “Just because we surrender to the authorities doesn't mean we have lost,” said protest leader Jatuporn Prompan just before surrendering at police headquarters. “We will fight again.” The surrender of their leaders failed to put a damper on the demonstrators, who went on a burning and looting rampage at the Central World shopping mall and nearby Siam Square.
The Bangkok Post and The Nation newspapers were also threatened with attacks by the red shirts. Both closed down their offices on Wednesday afternoon.
The UDD has been holding protests in the capital since March 12, when it trucked in tens of thousands of followers to Bangkok from northern and north-eastern Thailand, the heartlands of the red shirt movement which is openly supportive of the fugitive former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Mr. Thaksin was overthrown by a military coup in 2006 and fled the country to avoid a two-year prison term for corruption.
All Indian nationals in the country are reportedly safe. Bangkok is a favourite destination among Indian tourists and a small group from India continued to enjoy the city's attractions though with caution, an Indian national who did not wish to be named said.
Bangkok has a vast expatriate Indian population.
Susha Stephen Varugis, a former corporate lawyer and daughter of late congress leader C M Stephen, who has been living in Bangkok for several years said the situation in Bangkok was very unsettling. Another expatriate Anna Khendry, who is active in the Bangkok community Theatre, said it was scary to see Bangkok in the present state as it was very uncertain. — DPA, PTI
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