Downtown Bangkok turned into a flaming battleground Wednesday as an army assault toppled the Red Shirt protest leadership, enraging followers who fired grenades and set numerous fires that cloaked the skyline in a black haze.
Using live ammunition, troops dispersed thousands of anti-government protesters who had been camped in the capital's premier shopping and residential district for weeks. Four protesters and an Italian news photographer were killed in the ensuing gunbattles and about 60 wounded.
After Red Shirt leaders gave themselves up to police, rioters set fires at the Stock Exchange, several banks, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Electricity Authority, the high-end Central World shopping mall and a cinema complex that collapsed. Thick smoke drifted across the sky of this city of 10 million people.
The government declared a nighttime curfew in Bangkok, and said army operations would continue through the night. An announcement signed by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and broadcast on television said nobody in the capital was allowed out of their homes from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m unless they have permission from authorities.
Protesters also turned their rage on the local media, which they have accused of pro-government coverage. They attacked the offices of state-run Channel 3, setting fire to cars outside and puncturing water pipes that flooded the building.