Thai protesters besieged government ministries in Bangkok and urged civil servants to join a push to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and dismantle the network of her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Demonstrators who occupied the compounds of the finance and foreign ministries yesterday massed outside the interior, energy and transport ministries today, forcing employees to evacuate. Yingluck offered to hold talks with leaders of the protest movement and called for an end to the occupations.
Rallies that began a month ago against an amnesty for political offenses stretching back to the 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin have morphed into a wider push to end “suffering under the rule of Thaksin and his people,” said Suthep Thaugsuban, a former opposition lawmaker who is leading the demonstrations. The Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Suthep for leading yesterday’s breach of the finance ministry.
“The protesters still lack the backing of forces with the willingness and ability to topple the government quickly,” said Michael Montesano, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “If disorder spreads, we will see how long those forces are willing to stand aside.”
A two-day confidence debate started today in parliament against Yingluck and members of her ruling Pheu Thai party, after the opposition accused them of corruption and trying to pass laws to exonerate Thaksin of crimes he allegedly committed in office. Pheu Thai has a majority in parliament’s lower house.
Demonstrators continued a symbolic occupation of the finance ministry today after erecting a permanent protest stage overnight. Workers were told to leave the transport and energy ministries and the headquarters of state energy company PTT Pcl (PTT) as groups of protesters arrived and blocked access to the compounds, government officials said.
The government extended the use of the Internal Security Act to provinces near Bangkok including Nonthaburi and some districts of Samut Prakarn and Pathumthani until Dec. 31, Yingluck said yesterday. The ISA, which has been in effect around Parliament House since Oct. 9, lets authorities close roads, make arrests and take action against any security threats.
Yingluck today reiterated a pledge that authorities wouldn’t use violence to disperse the protests, and said she was willing to talk to Suthep, who oversaw a deadly crackdown on Thaksin’s supporters in 2010 when the opposition Democrat party was in power.
The SET Index (SET) of stocks has fallen 6.3 percent in the past month, the most in Asia after Indonesia and the Philippines, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The baht was little changed at 31.970 per dollar as of 3 p.m. in Bangkok. It reached 32.11 earlier, the weakest level in 11 weeks.
The U.S. expressed concern over the protests. “We urge all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint, and respect the rule of law,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in an e-mailed statement.
The battle is the latest between allies of Thaksin who have won the past five elections, and royalists who backed his ouster. Since the military putsch, courts have voided an election won by Thaksin’s party, disbanded two parties linked to him, disqualified about 200 of his allies from politics, sentenced him to jail and seized 46 billion baht ($1.4 billion) of his wealth.
“The last straw for me that caused me to join the rally against the government was the amnesty bill,” Thananya Muanghon, 37, a resort owner from Kamphaengphet province, 350 kilometers (218 miles) north of Bangkok, said inside the finance ministry compound yesterday. “That’s what made me think that it was time to come out and express my dissatisfaction.”
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