Bangkok braces for final push by protesters to topple Thai government

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 December, 2013, 6:51am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 December, 2013, 6:51am


Thai authorities said yesterday they would rebuild barricades around key state buildings in Bangkok after opposition protesters called for a final push to topple the government.

The kingdom remains tense following several days of street clashes between police and demonstrators seeking to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and curb the political influence of her brother Thaksin.

The protesters - a mix of royalists, middle class and other Thaksin opponents - hope to unseat her and suspend the country's democracy in favour of an unelected "people's council".

After the clashes, during which riot police used tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets against stone-throwing demonstrators, the government ordered police to ease tensions by removing barriers around key buildings including Government House.

But the barricades are set to be rebuilt, with the protest leaders threatening to turn tomorrow into "judgment day" for their efforts to overthrow the government.

"Police will erect barricades - especially around Government House and Parliament," said Paradorn Pattnatabut, chief of the National Security Council.

Although the protests were "losing momentum", he said thousands of police would still be deployed tomorrow.

"I am confident that there will be no violent incidents on Monday," he said.

Paradon expressed the hope that the five-week stand-off could still be resolved through negotiation.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who faces an arrest warrant for insurrection, on Friday issued a rallying cry for a final push to overthrow the government. Vowing to surrender to authorities unless enough people show up for tomorrow's rallies, he said protesters would target the government's headquarters.

"If people turn out in their millions [on Monday] it's sure that things will change," Akanat Promphan, Suthep's stepson and spokesman for the opposition protesters, said yesterday.

He said he was concerned there could be "violent clashes and loss of life".

Yingluck said that while she sees no quick end to the deep political impasse, her government was willing to negotiate with opponents to end the crisis.

Speaking in an interview with a group of foreign journalists, the prime minister said, "Our door is still open" to dialogue.

Yingluck said she did not want to cling to power. "We don't have any resistance about resigning or dissolving parliament," she said, but that could only occur if all parties agreed and new elections were held.

Thailand has been periodically rocked by sometimes bloody unrest since Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon-turned-premier, was deposed by royalist generals in a coup seven years ago.

His sister's government has been shaken by weeks of rallies. The unrest has left five people dead and more than 200 injured in Bangkok.

Additional reporting by Associated Press