Pakistan chief photographer Adrees Latif has won the prestigious ICP Infinity Award in Photojournalism for his outstanding coverage of last year’s Pakistan floods. Working under the most difficult of conditions he led the Reuters pictures team to tell the story from every possible angle. His images were published daily across international front pages, bringing attention to the enormity of the catastrophe from its early stages. Latif’s work has received numerous industry accolades including the Pulitzer prize for Breaking News Photography in 2008.
Adrees recounts how he took the award-winning image of marooned flood victims grasping on to an army helicopter as they tried to escape.
MUZAFFARGARH, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistanis desperate to get out of flooded villages threw themselves at helicopters on Saturday as more heavy rain was expected to intensify both suffering and anger with the government.
President Asif Ali Zardari may have made the biggest political mistake of his career by leaving for Paris and London during the worst floods in 80 years.
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Bangkok emerged from an overnight curfew on Thursday after the Thai capital was plunged into a day of rioting and fires in the aftermath of military action to disperse a camp of anti-government protesters.
The capital, in the grip of protests by “red shirt” activists for six weeks, fell quiet as the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. (1300 to 2300 GMT) curfew came into effect, though isolated skirmishes were reported in darkened streets.
BANGKOK, May 20 (Reuters) – Bangkok emerged from an overnight curfew on Thursday after the Thai capital was plunged into a day of rioting and fires in the aftermath of military action to disperse a camp of anti-government protesters. The capital, in the grip of protests by "red shirt" activists for six weeks, fell quiet as the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. (1300 to 2300 GMT) curfew came into effect, though isolated skirmishes were reported in darkened streets.
At least six people died in the turmoil after troops in armoured vehicles pushed into the city-centre camp, prompting protest leaders to surrender. Troops, authorised to shoot looters and arsonists, pursued operations through the night.
Authorities imposed the curfew initially on the capital, but later extended it to 21 provinces — about a third of the total — after oubursts of unrest in seven regions, particularly in the north, a "red shirt" stronghold.
"I am confident and determined to end the problems and return the country to peace and order once again," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajivahe said in a televised address on Wednesday night.
Thailand’s Stock Exchange, which closed early on Wednesday, was to remain shut on Thursday and Friday, along with banks. [ID:nSGE64H0A1]
Analysts said some investors bought shares on Wednesday, nudging the benchmark stock index up 0.71 percent, on news that the military had dispersed the protesters. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
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NEW VIOLENCE OR RESPITE?
Wednesday’s unrest, with 27 buildings set ablaze in Bangkok, including the stock exchange, was the "most widespread and most uncontrollable" political violence Thailand has ever seen, said political historian Charnvit Kasetsiri.
Town halls were set alight in three northern areas.
It was uncertain whether the rioting represented a final outpouring of protesters’ anger or whether they would intensify despite the scope of the curfew. [ID:nSGE64I0OI] [ID:nRISKTH]
A respite would give Thai markets some limited relief.
Further violence would suggest a new phase in Thailand’s political crisis, with the country moving towards the worst-case scenarios of prolonged unrest, profoundly negative for markets.
Protesters demand a new election and dismiss Abhisit as lacking a proper mandate after coming to power in a controversial parliamentary vote in 2006 with tacit military support.
In Washington, Kurt Campbell, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, told reporters talks were planned with Thai diplomats and officials.
A news blackout was imposed and local TV ran programmes of dancing and flag-waving Thais, periodically interrupting them for government statements. [ID:nSGE64I0I4]
The protesters, mostly rural and poor city dwellers, broadly support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist billionaire ousted in a 2006 coup and living in self-imposed exile to avoid jail on a graft conviction.
Thaksin said the crackdown could spawn guerrilla warfare.
"There is a theory saying a military crackdown can spread resentment and these resentful people will become guerrillas," he told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
The offensive was launched a day after the collapse of proposed talks aimed at ending weeks of confrontation. More than 70 people have been killed and nearly 2,000 people wounded since the demonstrations began in mid-March. (Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan and Ambika Ahuja; Writing by Ron Popeski; editing by Ralph Boulton)
BANGKOK, May 19 (Reuters) – Rioting and fires swept Bangkok on Wednesday after troops stormed a protest encampment, forcing protest leaders to surrender, but sparking clashes that killed at least four people and triggered unrest in northern Thailand.
Protesters torched at least five buildings, including the Thai stock exchange and Central World, Southeast Asia’s second-biggest department store complex, and attacked local Channel 3 television station as riots spread across the city of 15 million people.
About 100 employees of the TV station were trapped on the roof of the of the highrise and most have been rescue by helicopters, local media said..
Power was lost in typically bustling Sukhumvit Road district, an area packed with tourists and high-end residential complexes, just hours after the army said the situation involving thousands of anti-government protesters was under control.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva imposed a curfew in Bangkok on Wednesday from 8 p.m. (1300 GMT) until 6 a.m. on Thursday (2300 GMT Wednesday) The curfew — details of which were read out on national television — was meant to allow security authorities perform their duty, Abhisit said in the order.
The chaos followed a military operation in the morning in which troops in armoured vehicles and firing semi-automatic weapons advanced on an area occupied for more than six weeks by thousands of the "red shirt" demonstrators.
As they surrounded the main protest site, top protest leaders offered to surrender, as supporters urged them to fight on, many screaming and crying as gun fire rang out nearby.
Moments later, live television showed four "red shirt" protest leaders in police custody and an army spokesman said in a television broadcast the protest site was under army control and the military had halted operations.
But that didn’t stop the unrest after six days of chaotic street fighting between protesters and troops that descended into urban warfare, killing 41 people and wounding more than 330.
Minutes after they surrendered, three grenades exploded outside the main protest site, badly wounding two soldiers and a foreign journalist, a Reuters witness said. Rioting was seen in five areas of the city as protesters lit fires and burned tyres. Some hotels set up wooden barricades.
Several media organisations including The Bangkok Post and The Nation newspapers evacuated their office after a threat from protesters accusing them of biased reporting.
"The situation is worse than expected now and it’s very difficult to stop," said Kavee Chukitsakem, head of research, Kasikorn Securities. "After the red shirt leaders surrendered, things were out of control. It’s like insects flying around from one place to another, causing irritation. We don’t know who they are and why they are doing this."
Violence also spread to northeast Thailand, a red shirt stronghold, where protesters stormed a town hall complex in the city of Udon Thani, setting a building ablaze, and torched a second town hall in Khon Kaen.
Unrest was reported in three other provinces.
Three journalists were among 50 people wounded and one Western journalist, identified as an Italian, was killed.
Troops and armoured vehicles broke through the protesters’ three-metre-high (10 feet) barricades of tyres and bamboo, and fired tear gas and automatic rifle-fire at the protesters.
Two bodies were found on Ratchadamri Road, which leads to the main protest site after troops followed the army vehicle into the encampment, a Reuters witness said. They appeared to have been shot. The "red shirts" fired back, witnesses said.
Protesters ignited walls of tyres as the troops arrived, causing thick black smoke to billow high over skyscrapers and hiding thousands of demonstrators who have occupied the heart of Bangkok’s commercial district for more than six weeks.
The mostly rural and urban poor protestors broadly support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a graft-convicted populist billionaire ousted in a 2006 coup and living in self-imposed exile to avoid jail.
Thaksin raised the spectre of insurrection in a telephone interview with Reuters on Wednesday. "There is a theory saying a military crackdown can spread resentment and these resentful people will become guerrillas," he said, but declined to say where he was speaking from.
"For investors, it is going to take years to bring credibility back to the country,". The market fundamentals are just not the same any more, said Kongkiat Opaswongkarn, head of Asia Plus Securities.
The military offensive came a day after the collapse of a proposal for talks aimed at ending five days of chaotic street fighting that descended into urban warfare.
The red shirts accuse the British-born, Oxford-educated Abhisit of lacking a popular mandate after coming to power in a controversial parliamentary vote in 2008 with tacit backing from the military. They have demanded immediate elections.
Troops over the past few days had thrown a cordon around the protest site, a "tent city" at the Rachaprasong intersection, paralysing the heart of Bangkok. Hundreds of women and children have taken refuge in a temple inside the protest area.
Protesters have stockpiled food, water, and supplies in the encampment since Thursday when the assassination of a major-general allied to the red shirts, and an army operation to pressure them, sparked the latest wave of violence that has killed 68 people and wounded more than 1,700 since the demonstrations began in mid-March. (Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan, Michael Perry and Ambika Ahuja; Writing by Jason Szep; Editing by Bill Tarrant)
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai troops gained partial control of a protest camp in central Bangkok on Wednesday, using armored vehicles to break through barricades in an operation that killed at least four people, the Thai News Agency said.
Some anti-government “red shirt” leaders have fled the site protesters have been occupying in central Bangkok after troops began an operation to clear the area early in the morning, the government said.
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai troops and armoured vehicles broke through barricades of tyres and staves on Wednesday in a fresh offensive to evict thousands of anti-government protesters from their fortified camp in central Bangkok, witnesses said.
With troops firing tear gas ahead of the assault, the armoured vehicles moved down a road toward the stage where most of the estimated 3,000 demonstrators were rallying.
BANGKOK (Reuters) – The Thai government threatened on Sunday to impose a curfew in Bangkok after three days of fighting that has killed at least 24 people and spiraled into chaotic urban warfare, with both sides calling for reinforcements.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said a curfew was a possible step to restore order in the capital city of 15 million people known for its nightlife, as the army struggles to end weeks of increasingly violent protests seeking to topple his government.
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai troops fired into the air near a convoy of anti-government protesters on Wednesday in an attempt to halt their convoy after they left their central Bangkok encampment for a “mobile rally”, a Reuters witness said.
About 450 soldiers and policemen had set up a checkpoint near the old international airport on a highway in Bangkok’s northern suburbs, and some of them fired into the air with automatic weapons and shotguns.
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s “red shirt” protesters congregated in their thousands at an upmarket Bangkok shopping district on Wednesday, preparing a “final battleground” in their campaign to oust army-backed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
About 20,000 had gathered in the commercial heart of the city by early evening as the prospect of further impasse looked set to clip growth in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy after clashes on Saturday killed 23 in Thailand’s bloodiest political violence since 1992.