Nov 26, 2013

    Ministries in Bangkok occupied by protesters



    NTI-GOVERNMENT protesters forced their way into Thailand's Finance Ministry yesterday, laying out sleeping mats in its rooms and hallways in an escalating bid to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

    They also broke into the compound of the Foreign Ministry, a witness said.

    "Several hundred protesters broke down the gate and entered the compound of the Foreign Ministry," said spokesman Sek Wannamethee. They did not enter the buildings.

    The protesters say Ms Yingluck is a puppet of her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and convicted two years later of graft - charges that he denies.

    About 1,000 protesters swarmed into the Finance Ministry's compound, filling up the first floor of the main building and occupying six others. Many gathered in hallways and meeting rooms, blowing whistles and spreading out large plastic mats for sleeping and eating.

    "I invite protesters to stay here overnight at the Finance Ministry," protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told a crowd in front of the ministry.

    "Our only objective is to rid the country of the Thaksin regime," said Mr Suthep, a former deputy prime minister under the previous Democrat-led government.

    There were almost no policemen at the Finance Ministry, witnesses said.

    "The government cannot use force at this juncture. If they do, they will lose immediately," said Dr Boonyakiat Karavekphan, a political analyst at Ramkamhaeng University in Bangkok.

    Ms Yingluck's broad support in Thailand's vote-rich north and north-east - rural regions that are among the country's poorest - helped her win a 2011 election by a landslide.

    That vote was seen as a victory for the poor and a defeat for the Bangkok elite who support the Democrats. After a delicate calm for the past two years, long-simmering tension between those factions is flaring into the open again.