Thai protesters vow to paralyse government
Thai protesters march to more public buildings in attempt to paralyse the state and force PM Yingluck Shinawatra to step down.PT1M20S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2yj81 620 349 December 1, 2013
Police on Sunday fired tear gas to stop protesters at two locations in Bangkok, outside Government House that houses the prime minister’s offices and outside the metropolitan police headquarters.
Reuters reported protesters stormed a police club where Ms Yingluck was due to hold a press conference.
But the prime minister was not there.
A Thai pro-government Red Shirt supporter in traditional costume shouts slogans during a rally at a stadium in Bangkok. Photo: AFP
Her staff denied reports circulating on social media she was planning to leave the country for South Africa.
Protesters have also occupied the offices of at least one television station and were told to make arrangements for an afternoon national broadcast.
Large crowds of protesters were massing outside eight locations across Bangkok, including the public relations department.
After the violence overnight pro-government red shirt leaders called off their rally, telling supporters to go home but be prepared to come back out soon.
Two people were shot dead and more than 20 injured as mass opposition protests turned violent in the Thai capital and the government deployed troops to protect key government buildings early Sunday.
A 23 year-old soldier and supporter of the pro-government red-shirt movement was shot dead, the second death within a few hours as rival groups fought running street battles.
As eight days of mass protests entered a dangerous phase on Sunday, thousands of troops were arriving at government buildings that opposition leaders have declared will be stormed later in the day.
The incident occurred when a crowd of more than 1000 people opposed to the government tried to block people from entering the stadium, where the number of red shirts was swelling throughout Saturday.
Reporters from the Reuters news agency saw two people on a motorcycle badly beaten, with one left unconscious, and a mob reportedly using poles and sticks to attack a taxi and a packed bus, accusing the occupants of being red shirts.
As bottles, timber and other missiles were thrown between the rival groups, more than 100 police moved in and anti-government protesters, many of them students, retreated to a nearby university.
But they spotted a bus carrying red shirt supporters and chased after it, witnesses said.
Later, several news agencies reported gun shots after police had earlier said they had calmed the situation in the area 15 kilometres from the centre of the city.
It is a densely populated area where there are unlikely to be foreign tourists.
Protesters on Saturday removed barbed wire at three points near government house in preparation for what they said was a planned occupation.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has also told supporters to surround the headquarters of the national and city police, the ministries of labor, foreign affairs and interior and even a zoo.
“We need to break the law to achieve our goals,” said Mr Suthep, a former deputy prime minister in the previous government that was defeated by Ms Yingluck’s party in 2011.
The protesters claim that Ms Yingluck is a puppet for her billionaire brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a divisive figure who is living in Dubai to escape a two-year jail sentence for corruption, which he claims was politically motivated.
They want to destroy the Shinawatra family network and the ruling Pheu Thai party that has mass support in many rural areas.
The protesters have been occupying government offices in Bangkok and provincial halls for more than a week in an attempt to cripple the workings of government.
After power was cut to the Telecommunications Authority of Thailand on Saturday, the internet was severely restricted or cut across large areas of Bangkok.
The protests are the biggest since an army crackdown in 2010 that left at least 90 people dead and more than 2000 injured.
It is the latest crisis in a cycle of destructive political upheaval that has gripped the South-East Asian nation for more than eight years.
Thailand’s powerful military claims it will remain neutral in the crisis, with army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha telling protesters not to drag the military into politics.
But military commanders have signaled they will deploy troops to assist police protect key government facilities. The army has staged 18 coups or attempted coups since the 1930s.