News / Asia

Thai Protests Pause Ahead of King's Birthday

Anti-government protesters sweep streets in front of the Democracy Monument in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Anti-government protesters sweep streets in front of the Democracy Monument in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
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.

  • Anti-government protesters throw rocks after riot police fired tear gas at them near the Government House in Bangkok, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • A military medical unit team assists an injured protester after riot police threw a tear gas canister during clashes in Bangkok, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • Anti-government protesters use fans to blow away tear gas as riot police use a water cannon during clashes in Bangkok, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • A Buddhist monk helps an anti-government protester clean his eyes with salt water solution after riot police fired tear gas in Bangkok, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • An anti-government protester throws a tear gas canister towards police from behind a barricade during clashes near the Government House in Bangkok, Dec. 1, 2013.
  • A crowd listens to an anti-government speech at and above a major Bangkok intersection, Thailand, Dec. 1, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • Police stand behind razor wire at their headquarters in Bangkok, Dec. 1, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • An anti-government protester gets ready to throw back a tear gas canister fired by riot police in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 1, 2013.

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.

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