Bangkok Under Curfew as Fears Persist

Bangkok remains calm but tense after Wednesday's deadly riots. The government has extended the curfew until Sunday morning as it tries to gain control of every district.

Thai soldiers loaded hundreds of remaining protesters onto buses to take them out of the city and back to their hometowns. Police are now reportedly collecting forensic evidence in the area of the protesters' camp, which is now filled with trash and burned debris.

At least 74 people have been killed and nearly 1,800 have been injured since anti-government protesters began their demonstrations in March. The so-called Red Shirt protestors are mainly poor, from urban and rural areas, and mostly support ousted populist leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

Fighting raged all day Wednesday, transforming Bangkok into a blazing battleground. Its stock exchange was firebombed, and a shopping mall was burned, as millions of people were warned to stay indoors.

The conflagration came after nine weeks of anti-government protests -- and an ultimatum from the government. Thai troops stormed the camp that protesters had made their home, crushing barricades with armored vehicles and opening fire.

Their leaders surrendered, but hardliners were furious, both with their leaders for giving up and with the army for using force. Some of the worst violence took place in and around a Buddhist temple, where civilians sought shelter.

Canadian reporter Mark Mackinnon was inside and described to ABC News what happened.

"We were sort of trapped with everyone else in there. During that fighting, my colleague was shot in the leg. The rest of the evening … many long hours, there were seven dead people in the compound with us, 10 others on stretchers, including my colleague, and one guy who died in front of us for lack of medical attention. It was really quite tragic."

Shots Heard Near Temple Where Protestors Sought Shelter

Early Thursday morning, smoke still rose over the city. Shots were heard near the temple that had provided refuge to many protesters.

Late into the day, the city's largest shopping mall still smoldered. According to local authorities, 39 buildings were set ablaze during Wednesday's unrest.

At one corner of the protesters' encampment, soldiers with binoculars stood behind sandbags, on the lookout for any protesters still hunkered down behind tall tire barricades.

A soldier on a loudspeaker urged remaining demonstrators to come out and give themselves up. Two more Red Shirt leaders did so today.

The fighting may be winding down, but the government now faces another challenge: a cleanup operation of epic proportions. Thousands of protesters were camped out for more than six weeks. The streets are strewn with trash, burned tires and debris. Today bulldozers and street sweepers began to clear the mess.

The protests began in March when a Thai court froze $1.6 billion of Shinawatra's money, claiming it came from graft. The Red Shirts do not accept the current Thai government as legitimate. They have demanded that the prime minister, Oxford-educated Abhisit Vejjajiva, step down and that new elections be held immediately.

They claim that Abhisit Vejjajiva came to power because he had the military's support. The prime minister initially agreed to an election but withdrew last week.

"He is more than tarnished," Michael Montesano of Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies said of the British-born prime minister.

"All extenuating circumstances notwithstanding, he will always be recalled as the man whose miscalculated incursion led to a burning Bangkok."

Thailand's unifying figure, revered 82-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, has not publicly commented on the current bout of turmoil in the kingdom, after having defused previous crises during his 63 years on the throne, including political riots in Bangkok on the same date 18 years ago.

The king has been in the hospital since Sept. 19.

Can the Government Restore Order?

"Thailand has become a nation deeply divided, and although talk of a civil war may still be premature, there is a high risk that civil unrest and political violence will not be contained," said Danny Richards, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Thailand is known to most as a tourist mecca, a prosperous democracy and an ally of the United States. A source at the National Economic and Social Development Board, the state planning agency, said the economic impact of nine weeks of political turmoil and rioting could easily cost $3 billion, or about 1 percentage point of the gross domestic product.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has promised that order would be restored, but with violence spreading to other parts of the country, questions have been raised as to whether the government has a plan in place to solve the deeper social problems facing Thailand.

"We can immediately fix the roads, but we do not know how long it will take to fix the wounded hearts and minds of the people," Bangkok Gov. Sukhumbhand Paribatra told a local television station.

Reuters contributed to the reporting of this story.