Thai protesters occupy government ministries

By Thanaporn Promyamyai, AFP

BANGKOK–Thai opposition demonstrators on Monday stormed two key government ministries in the capital in a dramatic escalation of their efforts to topple embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The mass protests against Yingluck and her brother, ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, are the biggest since 2010 when the kingdom was rocked by its worst political bloodshed in decades with more than 90 civilians killed. The turmoil has raised fears of a fresh bout of street violence in a country that has been convulsed by several episodes of political unrest since royalist generals overthrew Thaksin in a coup in 2006. Tens of thousands of protesters opposed to Yingluck’s elected government marched on more than a dozen state agencies across Bangkok, including military and police bases, as well as several television stations. Hundreds of demonstrators swarmed into finance ministry buildings and later forced their way into the foreign ministry compound, which were both apparently left unguarded by government security forces. Demonstrators broke down the gates to the foreign ministry and after occupying an area of the compound they asked civil servants to leave and not to return to work the next day, according to a ministry spokesman. “It was a peaceful seizure by the people,” protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said at a press conference from the finance ministry, calling for the occupation on Tuesday of “all government agencies.”

“The Thaksin system can no longer work,” he said, vowing to defy police warnings for the protesters to leave the ministry.