Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Bangkok on Monday as peaceful protests from the previous day escalated into the occupation of key government buildings.
While initially spurred by a controversial amnesty law scuttled
by parliament last month, protesters have become emboldened, and
are now demanding the resignation Prime Minister Yingluck
Opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuba initially assured the massed
ranks of police that the demonstration would be peaceful,
claiming that his supporters would be "blowing whistles and
handing out flowers." But as Sunday’s street crowds swelled
to over 150,000 – the biggest since the last violent political
crisis in 2010 – Thaugsuba called for a “people’s
On Monday, thousands occupied about a dozen buildings throughout
the center of the Thai capital, including the Army HQ and the
Most remained peaceful, but shouted “Get out! Get out!” in
chants aimed at Shinawatra.
The prime minister, who faces a no-confidence debate in
parliament Tuesday, has remained defiant in the face of the
"I have no intention of resigning or dissolving the
parliament," she told reporters. "The Cabinet can still
function, even though we are facing some difficulties. All sides
have shown their political aims, now they must turn to face each
other and talk to find a peaceful way out for the country."
Shinawatra has condemned the occupation of the ministry saying that the mass protests could hurt investor confidence and undermine tourism.
Current Thai Prime Minister is the younger sister of former
premier, who has been living in exile since 2008 to avoid a
two-year jail term for abuse of power.
The protests follow weeks of rallies sparked by an amnesty bill
that would allow the return of the former PM from exile and a
pardon for those responsible for an army intervention in bloody
rallies of 2010, in which over 90 people were killed. The
legislation was rejected by the country’s parliament but
protesters remained in the streets, trying to topple the
government, which they say acts as a stooge for former leader
Addressing the "People's Day" rally the opposition Democrat Party leader Satit Wongnongtaey hailed the big turnout on Sunday.
"How can this government survive? How can the Thaksin system survive?" he said to applause from the crowd.
On Sunday, at least 20,000 pro-government Red Shirt activists
staged a rally at a local football stadium to support Yingluck.
Government supporters have vowed to stand by their prime
minister, accusing the opposition of trying to provoke
intervention by the army.
“It's not really important how many anti-government people
there are,” the group's leader Thida Thavornseth told AFP.
“What matters is if they try to do something violent that
could change the situation.”
Both groups have vowed to stay in Bangkok and continue protesting as tension mounts. Police are preparing measures to prevent escalation of violence.
“We will not use force and we will try to avoid any casualties,” police spokesman Piya Utayo told AFP