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Thai anti-govt protesters surround more ministries


Opposition protesters in Thailand on Tuesday surrounded more government offices after having stormed the foreign and finance ministry compounds a day earlier during massive rallies calling for the country’s prime minister to step down.


Anti-government protesters in Thailand on Tuesday surrounded at least five more ministries in Bangkok after having besieged the foreign and finance office compounds the day before in a massive rally aimed at toppling Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The latest besiegement comes as Shinawatra faces a no-confidence motion in parliament.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined in a rally Sunday against Yingluck and her brother, ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in the biggest street protests since 2010, when more than 90 civilians were killed in a military crackdown.

On Tuesday, demonstrators surrounded the interior, agriculture, transport, and sports and tourism ministries, ordering officials inside to leave, having already occupied the finance and foreign ministries since Monday.

"We have to leave because they [the protesters] will cut the utilities," said Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak.

Around 1,500 protesters, waving Thai flags and blowing whistles, marched to the interior ministry, which was heavily guarded by several hundred security personnel, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Demonstrators gave officials an ultimatum to leave within one hour, threatening to "close the ministry".

Police have upped their presence on the streets after the country’s Internal Security Act was expanded late Monday, giving authorities additional powers to block routes, impose a curfew, ban gatherings and carry out searches.

Yingluck on Tuesday reiterated a vow that authorities would "absolutely not use violence" as she arrived at parliament, which was guarded by dozens of police.

"Everybody must obey the law and not use mob rule to upstage the rule of law," she told reporters.

MPs began debating the no-confidence motion, which was put forward by the opposition Democrat Party last week as part of a barrage of legal and institutional challenges to Yingluck's embattled government.

The ruling Puea Thai party holds a comfortable majority and is expected to win the censure vote expected later in the week.

Protesters say they want Yingluck to step down amid claims that her government is controlled by her older brother, ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

Demonstrations began last month, 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.

There were no immediate signs that authorities were moving to evict the occupiers Tuesday but authorities said demonstrators appeared to be leaving the foreign ministry.

In a press conference broadcast on the opposition's television channel, a rally spokesman insisted protesters would wait until Wednesday before making a "big move".

"We are occupying the finance ministry in a non-violent and peaceful way, so our supporters around the country can do the same and occupy all government offices," said Akanat Promphan, speaking on behalf of protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban.

Both the United States and Britain have raised concerns over the street action.

The rallies are the biggest challenge yet for Yingluck, who swept to power in 2011 polls on a wave of Thaksin support from the "Red Shirts", whose 2010 protests were crushed by the then Democrat-led government.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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