December 03, 2013
Thai Protesters Reach Government, Police HQ as Police Withdraw
Thai opposition protesters swarmed government and police headquarters in Bangkok on Tuesday, after security forces pulled back, saying they did not want a confrontation.
The protesters encountered no resistance outside the Government House, which holds the prime minister's office, and the metropolitan police facilities.
Waving flags and blowing whistles, the protesers declared a symbolic victory after reaching the compounds, but vowed to continue pressing their demands.
"It's not over yet. This is just part of it, because the prime minister has not resigned or dissolved the house yet, and we have not gotten what we want yet."
Earlier, police removed barbed-wire barricades outside the buildings, in what is seen as a change of strategy following days of violent clashes with protesters.
Police chief Kamronwit Thoopkrajang said his forces will not use tear gas and have been ordered to withdraw in line with the government policy of avoiding confrontation.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Monday refused to meet the protesters' demand that she step down and turn the government over to an unelected council.
The prime minister had vowed police will not use violence. But on Monday, they used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to keep the demonstrators from taking over more government buildings.
At least four people have been killed and scores wounded in the protests, which are Thailand's largest since 2010.
Mrs. Shinawatra said Monday that she met with anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban. She said the meeting was held under the auspices of the military, which says it is neutral in the conflict.
She told reporters that Suthep's demands that she resign, dissolve parliament and turn the government over to an unelected "people's council" was not possible under the law.
The prime minister said she was willing to do anything she could to make people happy, but what she could do must be legal under the constitution.
Opposition leaders have proposed an alternative to the country's democracy - a vaguely defined people's council made up of representatives from many professions - and vowed to take over every ministry until Ms. Yingluck resigns.
The prime minister survived a no-confidence vote in parliament Thursday. She refuses to quit and has called for dialogue to resolve the situation.
The conflict pits Bangkok's urban middle class and royalist elite against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Ms. Yingluck and her billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister ousted in a 2006 military coup.
The latest demonstrations were triggered several weeks ago by an amnesty bill that would have allowed Mr. Thaksin to return home and avoid a two-year jail term for corruption. The Senate rejected the bill but protests have continued.