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Thai protesters threaten to capture govt leaders
Publication Date : 15-01-2014
Protesters in Bangkok threatened to "capture" caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her ministers as they continued their blockade of key intersections in the capital to force the government from power.
Columns of demonstrators, who spent Monday night occupying some of Bangkok's busiest junctions, surrounded the Customs office and state think-tank National Economic and Social Development Board to force civil servants to stop work and join their cause.
Policing was light and there was no violence, though analysts warned that the three-month-long crisis is entering a dangerous phase as protesters become more desperate to produce results.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban threatened to take embattled government leaders into custody if they did not step down as demanded within days.
"This is our only chance, brothers and sisters. This is our one chance to eradicate the Thaksin regime from Thailand," he told supporters.
Asked how the ministers were being protected, a National Security Council representative told The Straits Times: "They are aware of his threats and they have taken precautions."
The demonstrators have set their sights on ridding the kingdom of the influence of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and lives abroad to evade a corruption-related jail sentence. His sister Yingluck is seen as his proxy but she has so far resisted calls to step down.
Thaksin counts among his foes members of the royalist elite and urban middle class, who accuse him of wasting state funds on populist policies to win support for his party. But he and his allies command the loyalty of rural Thais, whose votes guarantee that the ruling Puea Thai party will win the February 2 elections.
Protesters are demanding that the elections be shelved until political reforms are enacted by a "people's council". They have blocked candidate registrations in south Thailand to stop the polls from proceeding. The opposition Democrat Party is boycotting the polls.
On Monday, tens of thousands of protesters fanned out across Bangkok to "shut down" the capital as they tried to force Yingluck to resign. A militant faction threatened to seize the stock exchange.
Suthep has refused to negotiate with the government, saying that the campaign will continue until victory is complete.
Security analyst Anthony Davis from IHS-Jane's said: "This week is arguably make or break time, which makes it dangerous. He can't sustain this degree of disruption in Bangkok for more than a week as people are going to get frustrated… He's got to ramp it up."
Eight people have been killed so far in protest-related violence, while there are fears that militant elements may try to provoke clashes to spark a military intervention. The military has so far stayed on the sidelines.
The government has invited various parties to a meeting today to work out a resolution and also to look into postponing the elections, as suggested by the Election Commission.
Meanwhile, overseas voting which began this week continued yesterday in 24 countries, including Switzerland and Canada. About 150,000 overseas Thai nationals are registered to vote.