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Bangkok Burns As Military Ends Thai Protests

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Bangkok Thailand - Bangkok engulfed in flames, protestsBangkok burns after a day of heavy bloodshed following the surrender of anti-government protest leaders on Wednesday.

After hundreds of Thai troops in armored vehicles crashed into protester barricades yesterday afternoon, seven top Red Shirt leaders turned themselves in, saying they wished to spare their supporters from harm.

Angry followers, however, continued the fight, setting fire to 20 major landmarks across the capital and shooting grenades at troops. Rioters set fire to the Bangkok Stock Exchange, several banks, and the headquarters of the Metropolitan Electricity Authority.

One of Asia’s biggest shopping centers, the high-end Central World mall, was looted and set on fire by rioters. Siam Theatre cinema in Siam Square was completely burned to the ground.

Protesters attacked the offices of the state-run Channel 3, angered by the station’s alleged pro-government news coverage. Rioters torched news vans and punctured water pipes that flooded the Channel 3 building.

Previously: Thailand Tourism Collapsing Amid Bloody Protests

Thai Asean News Network, a 24-hour English-language news channel, evacuated its staff, fearing for their safety. English-language newspaper Bangkok Post was also evacuated after the paper received threats that their organization was being targeted by the Red Shirts.

Sunset in Bangkok - Nighttime Curfew imposedTonight Bangkok is under a strict 10-hour curfew, starting at 8 p.m, tonight and ending at 6 a.m. tomorrow. Only travelers heading towards the airport with passports and travel documents are being allowed to break curfew.

Since the protests began in mid-March, forty-seven nations have warned their citizens about travel to Thailand. Some nations, including the United States, have advised tourists to avoid travel to Thailand.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok was evacuated over the weekend, leaving behind only essential staff.

Learn how Political Unrest in Thailand Creates Travel Troubles

The chaos in Bangkok has ruined Thailand’s reputation as the “Land of Smiles.”

Sunset in Thailand - Political unrest ruins tourismIn the interview with the Bangkok Post, a spokesman for the Federation of Thai Tourism Associations said the unrest was the worst crisis the Thai tourism industry has ever faced.

For the last two months, some of the city’s most luxurious hotels and shopping districts have been closed and adorned with razor wire.

The trendy Rajprasong shopping district, where most of the protesters camped out, lost around $5.5 million a day during the protests, and some 20,000 employees were sent home without pay or relocated.

Learn more: Travel Resources Beyond the State Department

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit VejjajivaBangkok’s international airport has also seen significant declines. Arrivals are down by at least one-third. Hotel occupancy rates in Bangkok are a paltry 20 to 30 percent

Tourism in Thailand accounts for six to seven percent of the country’s economy. According to the Thailand National Statistical Office, 20 percent of employment in Thailand is directly or indirectly linked to tourism, according to the Thailand National Statistical Office.

It is still uncertain how long the violence will continue. At least 74 people have been killed and nearly 1,800 injured since the Red Shirt protesters took over downtown Bangkok, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the disbanding of Parliament and new elections.

By Adriana Padilla for PeterGreenberg.com.

Related Links: New York Times, Associated Press, Cradle Bay (UK), Associated Press

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