Red Shirt leaders to surrender as army smashes into camp
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Some of Thailand's Red Shirt leaders say they will surrender to the police after armoured vehicle smashed through there barricades and troops moved in to the anti-government encampment in Bangkok on Wednesday. At least five people, including an Italian journalist, were killed and many others were wounded. Members of the government say the demonstrators are close to surrendering.
Seven leaders announced they are formally ending their protest in front of thousands of their supporters. Protesters have been exchanging fire with soldiers and the army is also using tear gas. It has been authorised to shoot to kill in case of rioting.
One said they had done their best and another said they want to prevent further loss of life.
The government says the security operation will be continuing all day. Several thousand people, including women and children, are believed to be inside the camp.
“This is D-Day,” one soldier told AP.
The Thai government says many of the Red Shirt leaders have fled, but three top protesters remained at the main stage.
“An eyewitness said one of them, Arisman Pongruangrong, left on motorbike," said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.
But Red Shirt leaders Nattawut Saikuar, Jatuporn Prompan and Kwanchai Praipana were seen on the main stage in the centre of the rally site.
A senator involved in the mediation efforts told AFP that Red Shirt leaders will surrender shortly.
The 48-year-old Italian man was shot in the stomach and died before arriving at the hospital. A Dutch journalist, Michel Maas, was hit by a bullet in the shoulder and hospitalised.
Ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who the Red Shirts support, called on the authorities to declare a ceasefire.
He told the BBC that "a military crackdown can spread resentment and these resentful people will become guerrillas."
The clashes came as talks between the government and the Red Shirts, who are formally known as the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship, broke down.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government has accused Thaksin of bankrolling the protests and inciting unrest from overseas. He has denied being what the government calls a “mastermind of terrorists.”
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