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Thai protesters launch 'final fight'

By Agencies in Bangkok | China Daily | Updated: 2014-05-10 07:23

Thai police on Friday fired tear gas and a water cannon at protesters mounting a "final fight" to topple the embattled government, two days after the prime minister was stripped of office.

Thousands of protesters left their main encampment in a park in the city's commercial district as their firebrand leader Suthep Thaugsuban issued a rallying cry for them to establish a parallel government.

Fanning out into several groups they also surrounded a number of free-to-air television stations, saying they had interrupted broadcasts by authorities, as fears simmered of street clashes between rival political groups.

Police briefly used a water cannon to hold off a hardcore group of anti-government protesters led by a Buddhist monk, who were attempting to enter a fortified police club.

"At first police fired a water cannon, but protesters tried to get into the police club so they fired one can of tear gas," said Paradorn Pattanatabut, a security adviser to the government.

The city's Erawan Emergency Center said five people were injured at the club, without giving details.

The protesters' action adds risk to a highly combustible situation with rival pro-government "Red Shirts" due to mass in the city suburbs on Saturday, as Thailand's political crisis lurches into a dangerous new phase.

At least 25 people have been killed and hundreds more left wounded in gun and grenade attacks linked to six months of anti-government protests.

Both sides have hardcore armed supporters and Thailand's recent history has been scarred by bouts of political violence.

Bloodied but standing

Although buffeted by the Constitutional Court's removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on abuse of power charges on Wednesday, the current Puea Thai administration has staggered on and appointed a new premier.

But the Red Shirts are outraged at Yingluck's being deposed, accusing the court of acting in cahoots with the street mob to boot out a third premier linked to their hero - Yingluck's billionaire brother Thaksin.

Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, who was swiftly appointed to replace Yingluck, is a Thaksin loyalist.

"We are angry. ... We are ready to fight. We will not use violence but the power of the people to fight for democracy," Kwanchai Pripana, a Red Shirt leader, said, adding he would lead tens of thousands to Saturday's rally from the Shinawatra-loyalist Udon Thani province.

Thaksin, who lives in exile to avoid a corruption conviction, was himself ousted as premier in an army coup in 2006, sending the country spinning into a political crisis that has lasted eight years to date.

Anti-government leader Suthep earlier urged the Thai Senate and Supreme Court to help overthrow the government.

"We will regain our sovereign power and set up a people's government and a people's legislative council," he said.

On Thursday the government won a legal reprieve as the kingdom's anti-graft panel stepped back from hauling more Cabinet members into a separate indictment against Yingluck over a costly rice subsidy scheme.

There were fears the agency could have moved against the remainder of the government to complete a "judicial coup" and create a power vacuum that could have been filled by an appointed leader, as desired by the anti-government protesters.

They broadly come from the Bangkok-based establishment and middle-class, backed by royalist southerners, and revile Thaksin, when they accuse of massive corruption and perceive as a threat to the nation's beloved but ailing king.


 Thai protesters launch 'final fight'

A protester waves the Thai flag in front of riot police and soldiers guarding the entrance to the National Broadcast Services of Thailand television station in Bangkok on Friday. The government is hoping to organize a July 20 election, but the protesters want the caretaker government out. Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters

(China Daily 05/10/2014 page8)

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