Anti-government protesters storm Thai ministries
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Over a thousand anti-government protesters on Monday stormed Thailand’s foreign and finance ministries during a second day of demonstrations calling for the country’s prime minister to step down in the biggest rallies the country has seen in years.
More than a thousand protesters on Monday stormed Thailand’s foreign and finance ministries, threatening to occupy more state premises amid a massive rally aimed at toppling Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her government.
The protest, which started out as a march that was fanned out in several locations in the city, comes a day after about 100,000 people staged the largest rally seen in the Thai capital since the deadly anti-government protests in 2010.
After protest leaders encouraged people to occupy government premises, demonstrators entered the finance ministry compound and later made their way onto the Foreign Ministry grounds.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee confirmed a group had
forced its way into the compound on Monday evening, but that they had promised not
to enter the buildings. He could not say how large the group was.
Rally leader Suthep Thaugsuban said that "tomorrow (Tuesday) we will seize all ministries to show to the Thaksin system that they have no legitimacy to run the country."
It was not immediately clear if anyone had been injured in the incidents.
More than two dozen schools had been closed ahead of Monday’s rally and security tightened around the military and police headquarters as well as around five television stations controlled by the military or the government.
Protests triggered by amnesty bill for former leader
Protesters say they want Yingluck to step down amid claims that her government is controlled by her older brother, ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra.
The demonstrations, which began last month, were triggered by a government-backed amnesty bill that could have led to the return of Thaksin without him facing jail time for a 2008 corruption sentence.
Although the bill has been dropped, the demonstrations have since escalated into an all-out call for government change.
The escalating movement has raised concerns of renewed violence in Thailand’s ongoing political crisis, which has revolved around Thaksin for years.
Fears of pro- and anti- government clashes
Many fear that clashes could erupt between the anti-government protesters and Thaksin’s supporters, who are staging their own rally at a Bangkok stadium and have vowed to stay put until the opposition calls off its demonstration.
Thaksin’s supporters and opponents have battled for power since a 2006 military coup ousted the former prime minister, who was toppled following street protests accusing him of corruption and disrespect for the country’s constitutional monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thaksin has lived in self-imposed exile for the past five years.
The battle for power has sometimes led to bloodshed on Bangkok’s streets. Most recently, about 90 people were killed in 2010 when Thaksin’s “Red Shirt” supporters occupied parts of central Bangkok for weeks before the government, led then by the current opposition, sent in the military.
The latest protests have ended two years of relative calm under Yingluck’s government.
Special peace-keeping command spokesman police Maj. Gen. Piya Uthayo said intelligence reports indicated that the protesters would also move to surround key Bangkok locations, including the prime minister’s office and Parliament.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)