What next for Thailand?
- 19 May 2010
- From the section Asia-Pacific
Bangkok is under curfew after soldiers cleared thousands of anti-government protesters from their fortified encampment in Thai capital. The BBC's Lucy Williamson is in Bangkok and looks at where the end of the violent stand-off leaves Thailand.
With the protest leaders arrested and their main protest site demolished, Thailand's government says it is confident of regaining control of the capital.
But while major bloodshed has so far been avoided, other challenges lie ahead.
Sending in the soldiers to deal with a largely civilian protest was a risky move, but while major bloodshed was avoided, the military action seems to have inflamed anger in other parts of the country.
Reports from the north-east say protester have attacked government buildings and the mood was also tense in the northern city of Chiang Mai.
In Bangkok, too, there is a new risk from protesters who fanned out across the city looting shops and setting fire to key financial targets, among them a bank and major shopping centre and the city's stock exchange.
The government is taking no chances.
The curfew imposed across almost one-third of the country includes a block on cash dispensing machines and a temporary government takeover of some TV channels.
By quickly containing the growing opposition, the government hopes to limit the damage to Thailand's reputation and its own standing.
But the bigger question is how to manage the deep rift in Thai opinion about who in the country should have power and what mechanism should guarantee it.
The government has offered a political solution, a road map that would take both sides into talks in dissolving parliament and calling fresh elections.
But this dispute runs deeper, to the very nature of Thai democracy, and that debate has split opinion within families and the government, even within the army and the protesters themselves.
The past 24 hours may have shown that the government can still impose its will but it does not yet know whether doing so has put out the anger in the country or simply stoked it.