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Red Shirt camp stormed

world Updated: May 20, 2010 00:19 IST

Thailand on Wednesday clamped night time curfew in capital Bangkok and 23 other provinces as the Army stormed a barricaded protest camp of the Red Shirts, with the protesters setting fire to around 20 buildings, a TV station and the stock exchange in Bangkok.

Five people were killed on Wednesday including an Italian journalist in the army crackdown, taking the toll to 60 in the recent anti-government protest. Three other foreign journalists and scores of Thais were wounded in the violence.

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.

Rioters set fires at the Thai stock exchange, several banks, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Electricity Authority, the high-end Central World shopping mall and a cinema complex that collapsed.

The Thai government declared a curfew in Bangkok from 8 pm until 6 am. An announcement signed by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and broadcast on TV banned anyone from leaving home during those times without permission from authorities. The unrest during the past few weeks has been around central Bangkok forcing some big hotels to shut down.

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.

Many school children have stayed back in school to enable them to take their ongoing exams. Most of the embassies have closed operations the past few days as the protesters turned violent battling with government soldiers from their encampment base. Thai security forces began their operation to clear up the protesters early Wednesday morning with tanks and foot soldiers moving in smashing through bamboo barricades set up the the Red Shirt protesters who want the government to step down and arresting key protest leaders.

The government has blamed former premier and the hero of the protesters, Thaksin Shinawatra, who is currently on a self imposed exile, for the current situation. Checkpoints have been set up across Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Thaksin, said on Twitter that he appreciated the move of the Red Shirts to surrender thereby saving lives.

Thaksin, who was ousted by the Thai army in 2006, fled the country in 2008 before a court sentenced him to two years in prison on corruption charges.