- Associated Press - Monday, November 25, 2013

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s prime minister invoked an emergency law on Monday after demonstrators seeking to remove her from office occupied parts of the finance and foreign ministries.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced that the Internal Security Act would cover all of Bangkok and large parts of surrounding areas. Three especially sensitive districts of the capital have been under the law since August, when there were early signs of political unrest.

The law authorizes officials to seal off roads, take action against security threats, impose curfews and ban the use of electronic devices in designated areas. Peaceful rallies are allowed under the law.

Protesters swarmed into the two government ministries earlier Monday, overrunning several buildings and cutting electricity in an escalating campaign to topple Yingluck’s government.


Protesters say they want Yingluck to step down amid claims that her government is controlled by her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 for alleged corruption. On Sunday, more than 150,000 demonstrators took to Bangkok’s streets in the largest rally Thailand has seen in years, uniting against what they call the “Thaksin regime.”

The incursions into the finance and foreign ministries were the boldest acts yet in opposition-led protests that started last month. They highlighted the movement’s new strategy of paralyzing the government by forcing civil servants to stop working.

The opposition Democrat Party, which is spearheading the protests and has lost to Thaksin-backed parties in every election since 2001, also plans to challenge the government Tuesday with a parliamentary no-confidence debate.

“The protesters have escalated their rally, which previously was a peaceful one,” Yingluck said in a televised address. She said the government respected the people’s right to freely express opinions, but also had the responsibility to safeguard the country’s peace and stability and assets, along with the safety of citizens and their right to access government offices.

The law will cover the city’s international airports. In 2008, anti-Thaksin demonstrators occupied Bangkok’s two airports for a week after taking over the prime minister’s office for three months.

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 ongoing political crisis, which has revolved around Thaksin for years.

“Go up to every floor, go into every room, but do not destroy anything,” 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 Suthep, a former deputy prime minister and opposition lawmaker.

Protesters sang, danced and blew noisy whistles in the hallways as part of their “whistle-blowing” campaign against the government. One group cut power at the Budget Bureau to pressure the agency to stop funding government projects.

Police made no immediate move to oust them.

The protesters in the evening burst onto the Foreign Ministry grounds, which was not on their original list of targets.

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