Protesters enter govt HQ unopposed

December 04, 2013 - 6:53:01 am
Policemen and anti-government protesters greet each other inside the compound of the metropolitan police headquarters, the site of fierce clashes over the last few days, in Bangkok yesterday.

 
BANGKOK: Hundreds of Thai opposition protesters entered the government headquarters unopposed yesterday, as Thailand’s government ordered police to stand down and allow protesters into state buildings, removing a flashpoint for clashes and effectively bringing an end to days of violence in Bangkok in which five people have died.

The protesters, who are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, entered the grounds of Government House, the complex that houses her office, but left peacefully.

Although the protesters are still on the streets, it appears that this bout of animosity between the Bangkok-based establishment and forces loyal to Yingluck and her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, may be winding down.

An reporter at the scene described a carnival atmosphere, as protesters poured into the compound blowing whistles, sitting on the manicured lawns and posing for pictures, as tensions eased sharply in the capital after two days of unrest.

In jubilant scenes hard to imagine after days of clashes, protesters swept aside barricades in old Bangkok to occupy the grounds of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s office and warmly greet the police who, until just hours before, had rained teargas and rubber bullets upon them.

Cheering, flag-waving crowds marched through the gates of Government House, a heavily fortified flashpoint in a protracted protest aimed at toppling Yingluck’s government and banishing the influence of her brother, exiled former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.  Along with faint traces of teargas, questions persist over how the hard-won breaching of police barricades would end the political deadlock.

As Thailand grapples with an uncertain future, it faces a fundamental question: can a crowd that dwindled to 9,000 protesters yesterday alter the results of a democratic election in a country of 66 million people?

With Yingluck’s government still in place, and thousands of protesters still occupying the Finance Ministry and other government buildings, the police withdrawal felt like a temporary de-escalation of tension before the 86th birthday celebrations on Thursday of King Bhumibol Adulyudej, revered by the protesters. 

Yingluck shows no sign of heeding demands to either resign or call an election. “The government is still doing its job,” her deputy Pongthep Thepkanchana said.  Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban vowed to fight on.

“This is only a partial victory, it is not final,” he said at a government complex in north Bangkok at which his supporters are camped.  Agencies
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