The Central World Shopping Mall in Bangkok, South-East Asia's second largest department store was set ablaze as government soldiers continued to clash with the red shirt rioters. Enraged protesters went on a rampage of arson and looting that also saw fires engulfing the Thailand Stock Exchange, a television station, a downtown cinema as well as many banks.
These were the scenes of some major blazes that swept through Bangkok during an anti-government rally here in 2010.
In the aftermath of the military crackdown on the red shirt protesters, smoke billowed across the skyline. And at least four red shirt members gave themselves up, including their leader.
A number of people lost their lives, including Fabio Polenghi, an Italian freelance photographer. Several journalists were also wounded during the clashes, among them Michel Maas, a television reporter. Armoured vehicles backed up by soldiers firing live rounds, smashed through a towering barricade of tyres and razor wires erected around the Red Shirts sprawling base camp.
One Canadian journalist and four soldiers were badly injured in a grenade attack on the camp. A couple of protesters were also found dead after being shot as soldiers entered their camp.
While most demonstrators dispersed during clashes with soldiers, some protesters started several fires in Bangkok in an upsurge of renewed violence that ultimately prompted authorities to declare a night-time curfew across a third of the country The Thai government had imposed an 8:00 pm to 6:00 am curfew in Bangkok as well as 23 other provinces across the country in a bid to quell the violence.
The bloody crackdown also inflamed unrest outside the capital with supporters in northeast Thailand, setting fire to at least two provincial halls. Although violence broke out in northern Chiang Mai, the situation was soon brought under control.
The present prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had been under considerable pressure to bring an end to the standoff while returning calm, peace and some sort of stability to the country.
At the other end of the scale, the rally had dissatisfied a few armed protesters who then decided to create trouble by committing arson in various parts of the city including the shopping area around Central World. Thailand's minister of defence was said to be dealing with the rogue perpetrators.
Now you may well be wondering if tourists are indeed safe to travel here during these troubled times. It's unquestionably not the first time Thailand has been exposed to these elements and it probably won't be the last either. You need to remember that unrest orientations take place all over the world in modern times.
Much of the rebellious turmoil in Thailand is primarily confined to Bangkok itself, but there are many areas unaffected by these sometimes inconvenient incidences. Locals and foreigners alike still continue to live, work and play here.
In spite of this, the most popular Thai tourist destinations such as the fabulous island of Phuket and the lively resort town of Pattaya rarely gets interrupted by the ongoing attention taking place in Bangkok. It's perfectly safe to travel here. I wish you all the very best as you travel to this wonderful part of the world.
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