'Shutdown Bangkok': Thai protesters block roads to force resignation of Prime Minister

Demonstrators also plan to occupy government buildings and even cut off electricity supplies to force the prime minister's resigantion

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The Independent Online

Thousands of anti-government protesters have descended on Bangkok in an attempt to shut down the city and force the resignation of Thailand's prime minister.

Demonstrators have blocked a number of major intersections in the city as they try to make Bangkok ungovernable and force Yingluck Shinawatra to leave. They are planning to occupy government buildings and even cut off electricity supplies.

Reports said that as thousands of protesters took up positions on Monday the police allowed them to do so. The authorities have said they do not intend to use force to try and resist the protesters in order to try and avoid sparking violence.

The stand-off is the latest twist in an eight-year conflict that has pitted opponents of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra against those who support him.

The two sides cannot be neatly pigeon-holed but supporters of Mr Thaksin have tended to be rural Thais, especially from the north and east, and some elements of Bangkok's working class. On the other side is a combination of middle-class Bangkok residents, former army officers and elements of the so-called establishment that surrounds the Thai royal family.

Mr Thaksin was ousted by the military in 2006 and sentenced to jail in absentia for abuse of power in 2008. But from his base in Dubai, he still retains huge influence over Thai politics. His younger sister, Yingluck, was elected to power in 2011. In a concession to demonstrators - and in an attempt to cement her mandate - she has called new elections for February 2.

Eight people, including two police officers, have been killed and scores wounded in violence between protesters, police and government supporters since the campaign against Ms Yingluck's Pheu Thai party-led government started in November last year.

The Reuters news agency, said shootings were reported overnight near a government administrative complex that protesters began to blockade late on Sunday and at the headquarters of the opposition Democrat Party, which has thrown in its lot with the protest movement.

The protests are being led by 64-year-old Suthep Thaugsuba, a former deputy prime minister, who has had murder charges levelled against him for his role in a 2010 crackdown on pro-Thaksin supporters that left more than 90 people dead.

Mr Suthep stood down last year from his position with the Democrat party to lead the protests. He and the protesters have rejected Ms Yingluck's proposal of fresh election, saying Thailand's political system needs reform before any election is meaningful.

Analysts say the protesters have rejected electoral politics following a series of defeats at the polls. 

Mr Suthep's stated goal is to eradicate the influence of the Shinawatra family on Thai politics. He says Mr Thaksin and his family are guilty of corruption and nepotism. He has said he would call off the protests if widespread violence breaks out and country appears set for civil war.