Bangkok: Thousands gathered across the Thai
capital Wednesday to pray for peace, a week after devastating
arson and looting broke out following a deadly military
crackdown on anti-government "Red Shirts".
Ceremonies were led by 1,000 Buddhist monks at spots
around the upscale shopping district that was occupied for
several weeks by the protesters, whose rally descended into
outbreaks of violence, leaving 88 people dead.
Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs also participated
in the prayers, which began early in the morning and were
presided over by Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra.
"Bangkok Metropolitan Authority has initiated the
ceremony to help the recovery of those affected by the riots,"
said Sukhumbhand in a statement.
He said the event was part of a larger campaign "to
improve Bangkok`s image as one of the world`s greatest
"This merit-making is part of the campaign to boost the
morale of residents who are religious at their core, to forget
the past and to start a new, united Thai society," Sukhumbhand
One of the ceremonies took place in the shadow of Central
World, Thailand`s largest shopping mall until it was gutted in
last Wednesday`s mayhem -- one of 36 major buildings set
ablaze by militant protesters.
Employees from the mall wearing "I love CW" T-shirts lay
flowers by the ruined structure in the city centre and joined
other Bangkok residents offering alms to the monks.
While Bangkok has tried to get back to business this
week, authorities yesterday extended a midnight-to-4am curfew
in Bangkok and 23 provinces for four more nights as the
government seeks to restore order in the capital.
The Red Shirts, many of whose leaders have been arrested
and are in police custody, were campaigning for elections to
oust Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva`s government, which they
say is elitist and undemocratic.
A Thai court yesterday approved an arrest warrant for
fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra on terrorism
charges, which carry a maximum penalty of death, in connection
with recent violent protests.
Abhisit`s government has accused Thaksin, who was ousted
in a 2006 coup, of inciting unrest and bankrolling the mass
rallies by the Red Shirts, many of whom seek the return of the
former telecoms tycoon.