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BANGKOK – The Thai army launched a final crackdown on the main redshirt protest area today, leading to the surrender of the main protest leaders. Redshirt leaders told protesters at the group’s rally site in Bangkok of their intention to surrender to police, and asked the protesters to evacuate the site and return home. This provoked anger among a hardcore group of armed militants. These have fought on, burning the shopping malls under which the reds have sheltered at their main protest site since earlier today.
Earlier, burnt out piles of tyres were pulled away by trucks and bullzozers after armed personnel carriers ramped over and through the barricades. Journalists following events were penned in by crossfire at Ratchadamri, after statements by militants that reporters would be targetted. Journalists at Bangkok Post said they were evacuating their building following threats from the redshirts.
After an Italian reporter was shot dead, a Canadian journalist was wounded by shrapnel from a m79 grenade which appeared to come from the protestor side, landing less than 20 m away from this correspondent. 2 soldiers were injured, just moments after they posed for cameras holding weaponry found in the areas of the encampment which the redshirts retreated from.
For over an hour, this correspondent was among around 40 reporters who were cornered by crossfire at the Sarasin area, within the original redshirt encampment. A barrage of gunfire forced the group of reporters to hit the ground, before fleeing back down toward Bangkok’s embassy row on Wittayu Road. A series of grenades were fired toward Lumpini Park, as troops took shelter along with media personnel.
Meanwhile smoke rose from the Rama 4 road and from within the core of the rally area, as most of the redshirts left. The hardcore remnants are running amok. The Army appeared to think the zone secure, after comments by the Thai Government that the army operation was a success. However that appears premature.
Central World—Southeast Asia’s second-biggest department store—is on fire, as is Siam Paragon, another nearby shopping mall. Parts of Bangkok hit by power failure during military operations and unrest. Protestors have attacked a local TV station and the Thai stock exchange.
At time of writing some redshirts had fanned out from a second smaller encampment on the Rama 4 highway, setting a bank on fire there. Travelling back toward Sukhumvit from the Silom and Ratchadamri front line, this correspondent saw redshirt starting to torch another building closer to the Asok junction and rail station. The protestors fired slingshots at the taxi when we slowed to take photos
Elsewhere, shops and businesses have closed early in anticipation of chaos elsewhere in the city. Concerns pervade that redshirts will target the area close to the Thai PM’s residence, with reported bomb attacks and burnings near the Sukhumvit area. A directive coming from a redshirt radio station simply stated “Burn Everything”. Bangkok is braced for more violence tonight, while redshirts are reportedly launching arson attacks in their stronghold in the northeast, in Udon Thani and Khon Kaen.Show