Protesters in Thailand seek military support

Demonstrators in Bangkok surround defence ministry and march on ruling party’s offices, ignoring PM’s plea for dialogue.

Leaders of anti-government protests in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, have continued to ratchet up their campaign to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Organisers declared hat Sunday would be their “victory day”, and told followers to seize all state ministries, state telecommunications agencies, police headquarters and the zoo.  

By midday Saturday, several thousand were outside the offices of state-owned TOT Plc, a telecoms company.

“We need to break the law a little bit to achieve our goals,” protest leader and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban told a crowd of thuosands.

Hundreds of police officers have been deployed to the streets, as tensions persist.

Members of the country’s security forces surrounding the Defence Ministry on Friday were handed roses by protesters, as opposition groups attempted to gain the crucial support of the military and police in their campaign to topple Yingluck Shinawatra as prime minister.

Anti-government demonstrators marched towards the US embassy and the headquarters of Yingluck’s ruling party after spending much of the past week surrounding and occupying ministry buildings. Some 300 riot police guarded the entrance to Puea Thai Party offices, watching on as protest leaders delivered passionate speeches through truck-bound speaker systems amid the deafening screech of whistles, reported Al Jazeera Online’s Rob Kennedy.

About 1,200 protesters also stormed into the Royal Thai Army headquarters. An army spokesman said the gates to the compound were opened for demonstrators, who handed the army’s secretary-general a letter asking for support. Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler said the protesters were politely asked to leave, and only a few hundred remain on the lawns of the headquarters.

Yingluck, who easily won a parliamentary no-confidence vote on Thursday, has repeatedly pleaded for the yellow-shirted protesters to join talks and end their sit-ins across the capital.

Authorities appear to be desperate to avoid a harsh crackdown on the demonstrations, fearing a repeat of scenes from 2010, when anti-government protests turned deadly.

“I propose to protesters to stop protesting and leave government offices so the civil service can move forward,” Yingluck said on Thursday.

“The government does not want confrontation and is ready to cooperate with everybody to find a solution.”

Protesters’ claims

Protesters accuse her of abusing her party’s majority to push through laws that strengthen the behind-the-scenes power of self-exiled brother and former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was removed in a 2006 coup.

“It’s not about colours, yellow or red. It’s about a dictator who has divided this country,” said an anti-government protester who identified himself as Karl, 52, a British-Thai cyber-security analyst, referring to Thaksin.
“The government says it was elected by the majority of Thais, but look at the number of people here. You have to have the heart of the people, and Thaksin and his followers don’t have it.”

Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi, reporting from Bangkok on Friday, said Yingluck’s calls for dialogue would probably continue to be rejected by the yellow-shirted protesters.

“Her next best option is to wait it out, and that may already be working for her,” she said.

Thailand protests: Then and now

The yellow-shirt movement are staunch supporters of the country’s monarchy, and some analysts believe that protests will die down around the king’s birthday next week.

Our correspondent said the Chinese ambassador had offered to mediate between the two sides.

“But it is doubtful that protesters will sit down to negotiate,” she said. “They want the government out.” 

Sean Boonpracong, Thailand’s national security adviser, told Al Jazeera that the government wanted to arrest the organisers of the demonstrations, but not the masses who were taking part.

Protest leader Thaugsuban said protesters remained “very upbeat”.

“If we demolish the Thaksin regime … we will set up a people’s council, which will come from people from every sector,” he said.

“Then we will let the people’s council pick good people to be the prime minister and ministers.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies