Thai PM lifts curfew in Bangkok, 23 provinces

Thai Buddhists place candles at Marble Temple in Bangkok on Friday, May 28, 2010 as a part of Wesaka Bucha activities. Wesaka Bucha the most important Buddhist holy day of the year, Lord Buddha's birth enlightment and death more than 2,553 year ago

BANGKOK—Thailand’s prime minister lifted a nighttime curfew in Bangkok and other areas on Saturday, saying that order has been restored 10 days after violence killed more than a dozen people and left parts of the capital in flames, an aide said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will not extend the curfew in Bangkok and 23 provinces, aide Sirichoke Sopha said.

Sirichoke said there were no more fears of immediate flare-ups from the “Red Shirt” protesters who occupied the heart of Bangkok for weeks in demonstrations that ended May 19 in a military crackdown.

Concerns have also been raised about the economic impact of the curfew on local businesses.

The curfew was imposed after the crackdown dispersed thousands of the anti-government protesters from their barricaded camp in one of Bangkok’s most upscale shopping and tourist districts.

The military operation and the subsequent riots killed more than a dozen people and injured nearly 200. All told, 88 people—most of them protesters—died in street clashes, mysterious grenade attacks and sniper fire during the protests, which started peacefully more than two months ago.

Officials say the Red Shirt movement, which wants Abhisit to resign and call early elections, is not over and is regrouping. But no significant violence has been reported in Bangkok after troops forced the end of the protests and cleaned up sporadic resistance.

On Saturday, the city had returned to its usual bustle, with the streets crowded with cars and the subway and elevated train systems running.  “It’s good I can travel back home at night because I work a night shift,” said Boonmee Harbroab, a 49-year-old security guard.  Dozens of buildings were set ablaze as the protesters retreated, including fires that damaged the country’s stock exchange and gutted the country’s largest shopping mall.

Most of the Red Shirt leaders have been detained or have submitted to questioning, leaving the movement disorganized.

Still, intelligence officials have information suggesting protesters have moved underground and could be planning violent retaliation in their strongholds in the north and northeast of the country, said assistant army spokeswoman Lt. Siriya Khuengsirikul.

Siriya said the army is confident it can stop any outbreaks of renewed violence, and that the increased military watch was a precautionary measure.

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