x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Protesters overrun finance ministry compound in Bangkok

Protesters overrun several buildings and cut electricity in an escalating campaign to topple the government.

BANGKOK // Protesters in Thailand’s capital swarmed the finance ministry compound yesterday, overrunning several buildings and cutting electricity in an escalating campaign to topple the government.

The intrusion was the boldest act yet in opposition-led protests that started last month. It highlights the movement’s new strategy of paralysing the government by forcing civil servants to stop working.

Protesters say they want the prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down amid claims that her government is controlled by her brother, the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006.

On Sunday, more than 150,000 demonstrators marched in Bangkok in the largest rally Thailand has seen in years.

The protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban led the crowd at the finance ministry on a day when protesters fanned out to 13 locations across Bangkok, snarling traffic and raising concerns of violence in the country’s continuing political crisis, which has revolved around Thaksin for years.

“Go up to every floor, go into every room, but do not destroy anything,” Mr Suthep told the crowd before he entered the ministry and held a meeting in its conference room.

“Make them see this is people’s power,” said Mr Suthep, a former deputy prime minister and opposition lawmaker.

Thaksin’s supporters and opponents have battled for power since he was toppled in 2006 following street protests accusing him of corruption and disrespect for the country’s constitutional monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thaksin has lived in self-imposed exile for the past five years to avoid a prison sentence on a corruption conviction.

About 90 people were killed in 2010 when Mr Thaksin’s Red Shirt supporters occupied parts of central Bangkok for weeks before the government, led then by the current opposition, sent the military to crack down.

* Associated Press