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Thai leader invokes security law amid protests
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“The protesters are on the ministry’s compound but they promised they will not enter the buildings,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said by phone. “We are now asking them to provide ways for the officials who were still working to leave the offices and they will likely have to work from home tomorrow.” He did not know how many protesters there were, though Thai media said there were several hundred.
In a late-night announcement, police spokesman Piya Uthayo said authorities will seek to negotiate with the protesters to take back the government offices they are occupying, and would try their best to avoid the use of force.
More than two dozen Bangkok schools along Monday’s protest route were closed and police tightened security at the protest destinations, which included the military and police headquarters and the five television stations controlled by the military or the government.
Despite a heavy police presence at most protest sites, there was limited security at the finance and foreign ministries.
At another protest near the prime minister’s office, police were outnumbered by more than 1,000 protesters who scuffled with officers and tore down a razor wire barricade. A foreign freelance journalist in the crowd was punched by protesters who accused him of biased reporting before security personnel intervened.
Many fear that clashes could erupt between the anti-government protesters and Thaksin’s supporters, who are staging their own rally at a Bangkok stadium and have vowed to stay until the opposition calls off its demonstrations.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki urged all sides to resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue.
“Violence and the seizure of public or private property are not acceptable means of resolving political differences,” she said in a statement.
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.
The battle for power has sometimes led to bloodshed on Bangkok’s streets. About 90 people were killed in 2010 when 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.
The latest protests have ended two years of relative calm under Yingluck's government.
Yingluck’s administration has struggled to contain the demonstrations, which started over opposition to a government-backed political amnesty bill that critics said was designed to bring Thaksin home from exile. The Senate rejected the bill earlier this month in a bid to end the protests. But the rallies have gained momentum and leaders have now shifted their target to toppling the “Thaksin regime.”
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