Bangkok shutdown: Thai anti-government protesters continue demonstrations

Thousands are continuing to blockade major intersections for a second day in a bid to topple Thailand's government

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The Independent Online

Protesters attempting to topple Thailand's government moved to tighten the blockade around ministries on Tuesday and a hardline faction threatened to storm the stock exchange, while thousands continue to occupy major intersections in Bangkok for a second day.

The turmoil is the latest chapter in an eight-year conflict pitting the Bangkok-based middle class and royalist establishment against the mostly poorer, rural supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a former premier ousted by the military in 2006.

The mood among the thousands of protesters remained festive, but analysts have warned the chances of coming to a peaceful resolution were narrowing.

"As anti-government protesters intensify actions, the risk of violence across wide swathes of the country is growing and significant," an International Crisis Group (ICG) report said.

Ministries and the central bank have been forced to operate from back-up offices after protesters led by Suthep Thaugsuban stopped civil servants getting to work.

Seven major intersections were blockaded but train and river boats were still running and most shops remained open for business.

"In the next two or three days we must close every government office," Suthep told a large crowd of supporters.

"If we cannot, we will detain the prime minister and other ministers. We will start by cutting water and electricity and their homes. I suggest they evacuate their children."

A student group allied to Suthep's People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has threatened to attack the stock exchange, with faction leader Nitithorn Lamlua telling supporters on Monday it represented "a wicked capitalist system that provided the path for Thaksin to become a billionaire".

A PDRC spokesman said the bourse was not one its targets.

"We will not lay siege to places that provide services for the general public, including airports, the stock exchange and trains. However, we will block government offices to stop them from functioning," Akanat Promphan told supporters at a rally.

Jarumporn Chotikasathien, the president of the Stock Exchange of Thailand told Reuters emergency measure shad been taken to protect the premises and secure trading systems, although there was no visible security at the Exchange.

Yingluck has called a snap election for 2 February in an attempt to end the unrest, but this has been rejected by Suthep, who has said he wants the government to be replaced by an unelected "people's council" that will change the electoral system.

Many schools have been closed from Monday to Wednesday as a precaution in case of trouble, but shops and most private offices were open, even if many shoppers and commuters appeared to be avoiding the city centre for now.

The government has deployed 10,000 police to maintain law and order, along with 8,000 soldiers at government offices, but they are keeping out of sight.

Additional reporting by Reuters