Thai opposition protesters have surrounded the seat of government in Bangkok to prevent Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from returning to her headquarters. Demonstrators have vowed never to let her work there again.
Hundreds of anti-government protesters marched on Government House Monday and erected barricades around the compound. Many of the protesters were farmers who have not been paid for crops sold to the government as part of a rice-buying initiative.
The government has been trying for months to take back key administration buildings that have been at the center of mass protests against Yingluck’s regime. The prime minister has been unable to use Government House for around two months, and has instead operated out of various locations across the capital.
The farmers rallying on Monday have largely kept apart from the larger protest movement, which views Yingluck as giving too much influence to her brother Thaksin, the former prime minister who was ousted in a 2006 military coup.
Police on Friday briefly retook Government House with little resistance, removing barricades and clearing tents. But, hours later, the protesters returned, the police retreated, and the barricades were rebuilt with no resistance.
Preventing Yingluck’s return
Monday’s march on the compound was led by Suthep Thaugsuban, the head of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, who has been staging the protests on Government House for months.
“We will not let [the government] come back to work because we do not want them,” Suthep said from a stage. “Yingluck will never have a chance to work at the Government House again.”
On Sunday night Suthep, who is wanted by police for sedition charges leading to anti-government protests, challenged authorities to try and retake the compound by Wednesday.
“We will use quick-dry cement to close the gates of the Government House so that the Cabinet cannot go in to work,” Nittitorn Lamrue, leader of the Network of Students and People for Thailand’s Reform, a group aligned with the main protest movement, told reporters.
Security forces have so far provided little resistance when protesters move to occupy important administration buildings and intersections. The government is seen as being hesitant to respond with heavy force, as the memories of a violent crackdown by a previous administration that killed dozens of pro-Thaksin “red shirt” activists are still fresh.
Eleven people have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes with authorities in the latest round of protests, however.
Protester numbers have declined somewhat from the tens of thousands of people who took to the streets in the wake of February 2 elections. However, opposition to Yingluck’s administration has been boosted of late by the rice farmers angry over the lack of government payment.
dr/mkg (Reuters, AFP, dpa)