Bangkok Under Curfew as Fears Persist

"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.

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