Friday, November 29, 2013

Bangkok protests hit new venues

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Anti-government protesters in Bangkok have targeted the ruling political party's office, the army headquarters and US embassy in their bid to topple the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

More than 3000 protesters shouted 'Yingluck get out' and 'evil get out' on Friday outside the headquarters of the Puea Thai Party, which has been the target of mass street protests this month.

In the west of the capital, about 1000 protesters pushed through the gates of the army headquarters, where they occupied the front lawn without visible opposition.

In central Bangkok, more than 1000 protesters headed by Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the opposition Democrat Party, marched on the US embassy to submit a letter declaring the current government illegitimate for refusing to accept a Constitutional Court ruling.

The court ruled last week that a government move to change the make-up of the senate was unconstitutional.

The protests were carried out peacefully, with demonstrators shouting slogans and making speeches. The crowds at the army headquarters, Puea Thai headquarters, and US embassy dispersed after a few hours.

Several protest groups are engaged in this week's push to 'uproot the Thaksin regime'.

The slogan refers to Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister's elder brother, seen as the de facto leader of the Puea Thai Party that won the July 2011 general election.

Yingluck offered on Thursday to negotiate with the protesters, but the offer was rejected by Suthep Thaugsuban, who leads the protest group Civil Movement for Democracy.

'Our only goal is that there must be no Thaksin regime in Thailand anymore,' Suthep told thousands of supporters at the Government Complex in northern Bangkok on Thursday night.

His supporters have occupied the complex since Wednesday and the Budget Bureau since Monday as part of a bid to paralyse the administration.

Observers expressed fear that the ongoing protests, though peaceful so far, may lead to clashes.

'Violence seems to be inevitable,' said Sunai Phasuk, the Thailand representative for Human Rights Watch. 'Suthep has refused to talk. This is not the right ingredient for a peaceful transition.'

Suthep has quit his post as a member of parliament with the Democrat party to lead the protesters in seizing government installations and encouraging civil disobedience.

The current protests first broke out after the Puea Thai Party on November 1 pushed an amnesty bill through parliament that would have pardoned Thaksin of his abuse-of-power conviction, and thousands of other politics-related crimes committed from 2004 to this year.

Thaksin was premier between 2001 and 2006 before being toppled by a coup. He lives abroad to avoid serving his jail term.

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