Nightly News   |  May 15, 2010

Death toll rises as Thai PM vows not to retreat

Amid growing chaos, a portion of Thailand’s capital city – an increasingly popular destination for American tourists – has been declared a “live firing zone” by the army. NBC’s Ian Williams reports.

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>> house, thank you.

>>> overseas now to bangkok where the heart of the capital city , an increasingly popular destination for american tourists, is filled with live fire. the violence showdown between protesters and the thai government is escalating. at least 24 people have been killed, and up to 200 wounded since thursday. nbc ' ian williams is in bangkok with the very latest.

>> reporter: the army today designated parts of riot torn central bangkok a live firing zone. troops and snipers again opening fire on protesters, who pelted them with rocks, molotov cocktails and homemade rockets, under the cover of thick, dark smoke from burning tires. this is usually one of the busiest streets in one of the most vibrant cities. amid the growing chaos, and mounting casualties, the u.s. embassy said it was offering to evacuate the families of embassy staff. and today they beefed up a travel warning to u.s. citizens .

>> we're advising american citizens to defer all travel to bangkok .

>> reporter: the redshirted protesters, mostly farmers from the poor northeast, have been cap ed in the city for more than two months, rejecting the government and demanding immediate elections. i'll fight, i'll fight until the end, this woman told me. behind their barricades, they're well prepared, from rocks to bombs made from chili sauce . as the army moved in, they have been spoiling for a fight. the government claims they have been infiltrated by armed groups, who the prime minister blames for the violence. today on national tv , he vowed not to retreat and said the army operation was the only way to restore peace and order. but that operation to blockade the rowdy side appears to be failing. the rioting today spreading to other parts of the city. there are reports tonight of more clashes and looting. the army called in failing to contain the protests. faced with such determined opposition, the army is now threatening what it calls more serious measures, and is bringing in reinforcements from the provinces. ian williams , nbc news, bangkok .

>>> in iceland, there are new