Thai tensions ease as police lift barricades

Security forces step aside and let protesters into PM’s office and police headquarters in an effort to avoid clashes.

Anti-government protesters in Thailand have crossed heavily fortified barriers and reached the gates of the prime minister’s office without resistance from the police.

On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters poured onto the lawn of Government House in Bangkok, waving Thai flags and blowing whistles.

The surprise development eased the tensions in the Thai capital following three days of clashes between the security forces and demonstrators who want to overthrow Yingluck Shinawatra, the Thai prime minister.

In depth

 SHOW: Talk to Al Jazeera with Thai PM

 OPINION: Protesting against Thailand’s Big Brother 

 BLOG: Frowns of smiles

 FEATURE: Thai tumult keeps a fragile economy on edge

 FEATURE: Anti-government protests polarise Thailand

 In PICTURES: Bangkok protests

Earlier, police said they would no longer use force to defend their Bangkok headquarters from protesters. 

Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi, reporting from Bangkok, said part of the reason the truce was reached was because of the birthday celebration on Thursday of Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand’s 85-year old king.

“That’s traditionally a day of peace and celebration,” Looi said.

“But the government has said that it doesn’t mean it has compromised. In fact, it said it is a way to appease the protesters for the time being.”  

Kamronwit Thoopkrajang, the metropolitan police chief lieutenant general, told AFP news agency that his officers would no longer try to fend off protesters at the police base.

“The Metropolitan Police Headquarters belongs to the public,” he said.

Police used cranes to remove concrete slabs and barbed wire barricades on a road leading to the city police headquarters.

Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, also reporting from Bangkok, said that there was a carnival atmosphere around the building. He said that protest leaders had called on the demonstrators not to enter the office yet.

He also said that Suthep Thaugsuban, the opposition leader, said the recent development was not an “overwhelming victory.”

Addressing the demonstrators, Suthep added the job was not done until the Shinawatra regime was overthrown.

Suthep escalated his campaign to topple the government and ordered his followers to storm the police headquarters in a defiant speech on Monday, hours before police took the initiative in question. The remarks came amid skirmishes between Thai security forces and opposition demonstrators.

Bill triggers demos

The protests were ignited by an amnesty bill, which opponents feared would have allowed Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister and Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, to return to the country. He was removed from his seat in a 2006 coup. 

Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra talks to Al Jazeera

Yingluck Shinawatra told Al Jazeera on Sunday that the government was no longer trying to pass the controversial bill that would have pardoned many people involved in corruption.

The latest conflict in Thailand put Bangkok’s urban population against the rural supporters of Shinawatras.

The country has been politically unstable since the 2006 coup.  In 2008, anti-Thaksin protesters occupied Bangkok’s two airports for a week after taking over the prime minister’s office for three months. In 2009, the office was held for 19 days by pro-Thaksin supporters.

A military crackdown on pro-Thaksin protests in 2010 that killed 90 people. The current government came to power with a landslide election victory in 2011.

Meanwhile, our correspondent, Florence Looi, said the truce is unlikely to hold for long time because of the demands from both the ruling party and the opposition.

The prime minister has said she cannot give in to the demands of the opposition, because they are “unconstitutional”, Looi reported.



Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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