Tensions ease in Bangkok as police allow protesters into government compound

Government order puts an end to days of violent clashes, but protest leader vows to fight on until Prime Minister stands down

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The Independent Online

Thai anti-government protesters filled the state compound which holds the Prime Minister’s office in Bangkok on Tuesday, after police stood down and let them in.

The riot police acted on orders from the Thai government, which moved to defuse tensions by removing a flash point for clashes.

Hundreds of protesters led by former lawmaker Suthep Thaugsuban filled the lawn of Government House, waving Thai flags and blowing whistles to celebrate a symbolic victory.

Many protesters left peacefully after entering, effectively bringing an end to days of violence in Bangkok in which five people have died when anti-government protesters clashed with police and government supporters.

Although the protesters are still on the streets, it appears that the violence and protests could be winding down. Mr Suthep has said he will continue the fight to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, however.

“Today we won a partial victory but we will fight on until the Thaksin regime has been driven out,” he said in a speech to supporters, a reference to the influence of Ms Yingluck's brother, former premier Thaksin Shinwatra.

The protests were sparked by a proposed amnesty bill that would clear the way for Mr Thaksin to return to the country from exile and have his corruption charge quashed.

Mr Thaksin was deposed by a military coup in 2006. The army also lead a violent crackdown on supporters of the Shinwatra family in 2010 on orders of a government in which Mr Suthep was Deputy Prime Minister.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters on Tuesday the military would not get involved this time round: “This is a political problem that needs to be solved by political means. However, we are monitoring from a distance,” he said.

The protesters, mostly middle class Bangkok residents, want the elected government to stand down and be replaced by a vaguely defined “people's council” acting under the King as head of state.

Thursday is the birthday of much revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and the protesters are highly unlikely to continue their campaign on what is traditionally a day of prayer and celebration. The King remains a sole uniting figure in the political crisis.

“The government is still doing its job. This morning we had a cabinet meeting as usual,” Deputy Prime Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana said.

“We haven't given up, but today the police have backed off because we see the protesters just want to seize these places as a symbolic action, so we want to compromise.”

Ms Yingluck said on Monday she was willing to explore every possibility for a peaceful solution, but has previously said she will not be stepping down. Her party, with wide support from the poor and regions outside of the capital, is likely to win any new election.