Thai protesters storm army headquarters in growing attempts to topple PM Yingluck Shinawatra

 

Protesters in Thailand stormed onto the grounds of the national army headquarters on Friday, breaking into their latest high-profile target in a bid to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The crowd of about 1,200 people broke the padlocked gate at the Royal Thai Army compound and forced their way inside as they called on the military to join their anti-government campaign, said army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

The compound is next to the United Nation's Asia-Pacific headquarters in Bangkok.

"They are now gathering in the courtyard, but they have not entered buildings," Sansern said. "We will make them understand that this is a security area and we will ask them to leave."

Yingluck has been reluctant to use force to evict the opposition-led protesters for fear of escalating the country's tense political crisis and sparking bloodshed.

Security forces have done little to stop protesters who have spent the week seizing government buildings and camping out at several of them in an effort to force a government shutdown while asking civil servants to join their rally.

The demonstrations that started Sunday have raised fears of fresh political turmoil and instability in Thailand and pose the biggest threat to Yingluck's administration since she came to power in 2011.

The protesters accuse Yingluck of serving as a proxy for her billionaire brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister who was ousted in a 2006 military coup but retains strong support from the rural majority in Thailand.

Protesters branched out to several spots on Friday, with another crowd staging a rally outside the headquarters of Yingluck's ruling Pheu Thai Party, where hundreds of riot police stood guard to prevent them from entering.

A separate crowd of more than 1,000 people marched through central Bangkok to the U.S. Embassy to convey the protesters' message that Yingluck's leadership is illegitimate, in response to a statement from Washington that expressed concern about the protests.

Crowd sizes peaked Sunday at over 100,000 and have dwindled in recent days to tens of thousands, but organizers have kept each day dramatic by targeting new and different seats of power.

Crowds of protesters have occupied the Finance Ministry since Monday and others have remained holed up since Wednesday at a sprawling government complex that houses the Department of Special Investigations, the country's equivalent of the FBI. On Thursday, the demonstrators cut power at Bangkok's police headquarters and asked police to join their side.

Yingluck has publicly pleaded for the protesters to stop and asked leaders of the movement to negotiate.

"Please call off the protests for the country's peace," Yingluck said Thursday. "I'm begging you."

But protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who resigned as an opposition Democrat Party lawmaker to lead the protests, says he will not negotiate. He says his goal to rid the country of Thaksin's influence and to appoint a new leader chosen by an appointed "people's council."

Suthep has called for bigger crowds to join the campaign over the weekend.

Thaksin, who lives in Dubai to avoid serving a jail term for a corruption conviction he says was politically motivated, is a highly polarizing figure in Thailand. So much so, that an ill-advised bid to push a general amnesty law through parliament — which would have paved the way for his return — sparked the latest wave of protests earlier this month.

Before Thaksin was toppled in a coup — allegedly for corruption, abuse of power and insulting the nation's revered king — he won over Thailand's rural underclass by introducing populist policies designed to benefit the poor. His political movement grew to become the most successful in modern Thai history.

But his opponents, largely members of the urban middle class and elite, saw him as arrogant and a threat to democracy and their own privileges. The country has been gripped by alternating protests from both sides since 2006.

AP

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
News
Cumberbatch spectacularly photobombs U2 at the Oscars
news
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

News
Will menus with calorie counts really deter junk-food addicts from eating junk?
i100
Sport
Today's Liverpool Echo back page
football
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
i100
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

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

2nd Line server support - Microsoft certified

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large organisa...

Reception Teacher required in Cardiff

£100 - £105 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, Adobe, ...

Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Functional/Full Life Cycle

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Func...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?