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City cleans up after clashes leave 52 dead

Violence-weary residents of Bangkok today began to clean and rebuild their city after a week of mayhem left 52 people dead and 401 injured, officials said.

world Updated: May 21, 2010 12:00 IST

Violence-weary residents of Bangkok on Friday began to clean and rebuild their city after a week of mayhem left 52 people dead and 401 injured, officials said.

The city's Erawan Emergency Centre said 159 people remained hospitalised, 15 of them in intensive care.

The violence reached a peak on Wednesday when 15 people were killed and 103 injured during and after an assault by army troops on the central Ratchaprasong district, where protesters calling for the dissolution of parliament and new elections had been camped on the streets and sidewalks since April 3.

The local government said more than 300 incidents of rioters vandalising public property had been reported since Wednesday with 36 buildings destroyed or damaged by arson attacks.

A curfew from 9 pm to 5 am was in force until at least Sunday morning, and the skytrain and subway transit systems remained out of service. Government offices were closed until Monday.

Parts of Rama IV Road, which cuts through the centre of the city and was the scene of fierce clashes between troops and rioters, remained a shambles on Friday with burned tyres, trash and the smouldering ruins of many ruined shops and food stalls littering the area.

Military officials said it would be at least another day or two until the Ratchaprasong area, home to some of the city's most luxurious shopping malls and hotels, could be reopened to the public.

The Bangkok Post website quoted Lieutenant General Dapong Rattanasuwan as saying security officials entering the area Thursday found gas tanks that were hidden inside the Four Seasons Hotel, were wired with explosives and ready to go off.

A large part of the Central World shopping mall, one of the biggest shopping centres in Asia, collapsed after it was set alight by angry protesters when troops and armoured vehicles moved in Wednesday.

Central World is part of the Central Department Group, deemed a supporter of Thailand's bureaucratic elite, which was vilified by the demonstration's leaders who painted their movement as a "class war" and "people's revolution".

Protesters also set fire to 10 branches of Bangkok Bank, another business group deemed close to the establishment, and an 11th branch was set on fire west of Bangkok Thursday night.

The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), which is supported politically and financially by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, started demonstrating in Bangkok March 12.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva offered a "road map" for reconciliation, proposing an early dissolution of parliament and an election in November in return for an end to the Bangkok protests, but UDD leaders could not persuade their hard-line followers to abandon the Ratchaprasong protest site.

First Published: May 21, 2010 08:17 IST