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Thai protesters blockade ministries, government

By Agencies in Bangkok | China Daily | Updated: 2014-01-15 07:21

Protesters trying to topple Thailand's government moved to tighten their blockade around ministries on Tuesday and a hard-line faction threatened to storm the stock exchange, while major intersections in the capital Bangkok remained blocked.

The turmoil is the latest chapter in an eight-year conflict pitting the Bangkok-based middle class and royalist establishment against the mostly poorer, rural supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister ousted by the military in 2006.

Many ministries and the central bank were forced to work from backup offices on Monday after protesters led by Suthep Thaugsuban stopped civil servants getting to work.

"We must surround government buildings, closing them in the morning and leaving in the afternoon," Suthep told supporters late on Monday, urging them to do that every day until Yingluck steps down.

Groups of demonstrators marched peacefully from their seven big protest camps to ministries, the customs office, the planning agency and other state bodies on Tuesday, aiming to paralyze the workings of government.

A student group allied to Suthep's People's Democratic Reform Committee has threatened to attack the stock exchange, with faction leader Nitithorn Lamlua telling supporters on Monday it represented "a wicked capitalist system that provided the path for Thaksin to become a billionaire".

A PDRC spokesman said the bourse was not one its targets.

"We will not lay siege to places that provide services for the general public, including airports, the stock exchange and trains. However, we will block government offices to stop them from functioning," Akanat Promphan told supporters at a rally.

Jarumporn Chotikasathien, president of the Stock Exchange of Thailand, said emergency measures had been prepared to secure the premises and trading systems. Trading was normal during the morning, with the index up slightly.

There was no special security visible at the exchange.

Election threatened

The number of demonstrators on the streets appeared to have declined as some returned to work.

The well-organized protest movement has vowed to occupy parts of the city of 12 million people until Yingluck quits, threatening to disrupt the February election that it fears will only return the Shinawatra clan to power.

A hardcore faction of the movement has threatened to besiege the stock exchange and even air traffic control if Yingluck does not step down within days.

Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul insisted the government was still functioning.

He said the shutdown was expected to last about one week, urging protest leaders to join talks to find a way out of the crisis. The government was assessing whether it was possible to delay the election under existing laws as proposed by the Election Commission, he added, explaining "the doors are not shut" on that option.


 Thai protesters blockade ministries, government

Protesters allied with the People's Democratic Reform Committee occupy Asoke Intersection, a major transport and business hub in Bangkok, on Tuesday. Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said the government is able to control the current situation. Photo by The Nation

(China Daily 01/15/2014 page12)

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