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December 04, 2013

Thai Protests Pause Ahead of King's Birthday

by VOA News

The Thai capital was calm on Wednesday after a week and a half of raucous and occasionally violent protests, as opposition protesters observed a truce ahead of the birthday celebrations of the country's revered king.

Many of those who have spent days trying to overthrow the government were back on the Bangkok streets, but this time to help clean up ahead of the festivities.

Boonyanut Dwaunglahon was one of those sweeping the streets at the Democracy Monument, where tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have camped out.

"This group, the whistle-blowing group, we're here together today to sweep and clean up to show the king that we love him," explained Boonyanut.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej turns 86 on Thursday, and is widely respected in Thailand.

Opposition leaders vow to resume the protests on Friday, saying they will not rest until Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra resigns and turns over control to an unelected council.

Fears of widespread violence were raised over the last several days, when at least four people were killed and scores wounded in the protests.

However, tensions eased on Tuesday after police backed down, saying they had been ordered to avoid confrontation with the protesters, whose strategy is to occupy government buildings.

Hundreds of demonstrators still remain at the Finance Ministry and some other government facilities, but the government continues to operate as usual.

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The conflict pits Bangkok's urban middle class and royalist elite against the mostly poor, rural supporters of 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 Thaksin to return home and avoid a two-year jail term for corruption. The Senate rejected the bill but protests have continued.