Red-shirted protesters end siege of Bangkok

The stand-off at the heart of Thailand's worst political crisis for years was abruptly defused yesterday when red-shirted anti-government protesters suddenly ended their siege of the Prime Minister's office.

In the end, the protest fizzled out because the demonstrators simply ran out of options. Many of the protesters slipped away overnight, and finally there were several thousand surrounded at Government House by what looked like similar numbers of troops. They marched out past riot police cordons and the siege was over.

The battle of Bangkok may be over for now but the broader issue remains unresolved. In an effort to counter the exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's substantial continued influence on Thai politics, the government yesterday issued a warrant for his arrest, as well as 13 other protest leaders. Mr Thaksin had addressed the protesters by video link nearly every day of the demonstration.

Meanwhile, the Oxford-educated Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who lost face after protesters forced the abandonment of a summit of Asian leaders, regained some of his credibility yesterday and won the public relations war because the two deaths during the protest were not linked to the army.

Thailand's seemingly unresolvable political crisis is a face-off between monarchists, the army and Bangkok's middle class against the rural poor loyal to Mr Thaksin.

Four anti-government protest leaders surrendered to the government after calling off the three-week siege, said the national police chief Pacharawat Wongsuwan. The "red shirt" demonstrators said it was time to stop for now. "We have to stop because we need to look after the lives of our supporters," said a protest leader, Jatuporn Prompan.

The beleaguered Prime Minister, who has only been in power for four months, has bought time with the resolution to the crisis.

"I'm not interested in making a deal with Thaksin," he said. "But I do listen to the concerns of some people who have joined the 'red shirts' in terms of democratic developments... I am happy to address those [concerns]."

The government has extended the New Year's holiday for the rest of the week to make sure that the protesters do not head to their strongholds in the north and regroup.

At the same time the collapse of the protests is a blow for Mr Thaksin, an industrial tycoon and former policeman, who is the only Thai leader ever to have won two elections.

Ousted in a coup in 2006 which had the backing of the army, there are also questions about whether Mr Thaksin has the money to finance another bitter election fight. The former Manchester City FC owner's assets have been frozen in Thailand since his conviction for corruption and abuse of power last year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...