Thai opposition demonstrators yesterday stormed two key government ministries in the capital in a dramatic escalation of their efforts to topple embattled Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The mass protests against Ying-luck and her brother, ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, are the biggest since 2010 when the kingdom was rocked by its worst political bloodshed in decades, with more than 90 civilians killed.
Tens of thousands of protesters opposed to Yingluck’s government marched on more than a dozen state agencies across Bangkok, including military and police bases, as well as several television stations.
Hundreds of demonstrators swarmed into finance ministry buildings and later forced their way into the foreign ministry compound, which were both apparently left unguarded by security forces.
“It was a peaceful seizure by the people,” protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said at a press conference from the finance ministry, calling for the occupation today of “all government agencies.”
Thousands of pro-government Red Shirts remain in a stadium in Bangkok in a show of support for Yingluck and Thaksin.
The rallies are the biggest challenge yet for Yingluck, who swept to power in elections in 2011 thanks to support from the Red Shirts, whose protests in 2010 were crushed by the then-government led by the Democrat Party.
Bangkok has faced weeks of opposition-backed rallies sparked by an amnesty bill that could have allowed the return of Thaksin from self-imposed exile.
The amnesty bill was rejected by the upper house of parliament.
Former Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva — now the opposition leader — and his deputy Suthep face murder charges for overseeing the military operation.
The opposition Democrat Party is seeking to raise the pressure on Yingluck with a no-confidence debate today — although her party dominates the lower house.
Thaksin, a billionaire telecom tycoon-turned-politician, draws strong support from many of the country’s rural and urban working class. However, he is loathed by the elite and the middle classes, who accuse him of being corrupt and a threat to the monarchy.
A series of protests by the royalist Yellow Shirts helped to trigger the coup that toppled Thaksin, who now lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to avoid a prison term for corruption that he contends was politically motivated.