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Thai protesters besiege 4 more ministerial buildings seeking govt ouster

Published time: November 26, 2013 05:41
Edited time: November 26, 2013 13:14
Anti-government protesters wave flags and blow whistles as one of their leaders addresses them at the Finance Ministry, which they have occupied since Monday, in Bangkok November 26, 2013. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

Anti-government protesters wave flags and blow whistles as one of their leaders addresses them at the Finance Ministry, which they have occupied since Monday, in Bangkok November 26, 2013. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

Thai opposition protesters have targeted several more government ministries on Tuesday in a continuation of their effort to depose Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government. It comes a day after they took over two ministries.

"We have to leave because [the protesters] will cut the utilities," Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak told AFP. He added the Transport and Agriculture Ministries were also surrounded.

The protesting crowds also gave officials at the Interior Ministry an ultimatum to leave within one hour, the news agency reports. The ministry staffers yielded to the demand about 15 minutes later and left the building, as some 800 people surrounding it were cheering and chanting “Come out!” The protesters left the ministry's grounds as a result, ending the siege.

This was followed by promises to take over government offices nationwide.

Meanwhile thousands of protesters tried to march on the prime minister’s offices, which are heavily guarded by police. After being blocked, they retreated to Bangkok's historic quarter, where they have set up a main stage.

The government fought back, issuing an arrest warrant for Suthep Thaugsuban, a former MP and leader of the Democratic party, for allegedly masterminding the civil unrest, it was reported by Bangkok police on Tuesday.

He stands accused of giving the order to attack government buildings and breaking the law on public order in the capital.

On Monday, Thai opposition protesters occupied the country’s Finance and Foreign Ministries. They pledged to hold the buildings overnight and proceed to take over four more ministries on Tuesday, including the Transport Ministry and the three already targeted.

PM Yingluck in response invoked the Internal Security Act, which gives extraordinary powers to security forces, but pledged not to use force in the confrontation.

Despite the takeovers, the Finance Ministry is still functioning on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

"Key officials are still working as normal from our backup office," Finance Minister Kittirat Na Ranong told Reuters. "So there will be no impact on the fiscal budget and important functions."

The minister added that his office is concerned over investor confidence due to the protests. The ministry is going to file a lawsuit against protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and investigate ministry officials who had facilitated the invasion, Kittirat said.

The ongoing turmoil follows weeks of protest in Thailand against an amnesty bill, which would allow the return of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, the brother of the current PM Yingluck. Thaksin is currently living in exile after being ousted during the 2006 military coup.

The bill, which was blocked in the parliament, would also pardon those responsible for an army intervention during the 2010 protest, which left more than 90 people killed.

Since 2008 Thaksin has been living outside of Thailand, being accused of undermining the country's powerful monarchy and breaching conflict-of-interest laws. He had been tried in absentia and sentenced to a two year term.

Despite being reviled by the elite of the large cities, he remains a popular figure in rural areas.

The seizures of government buildings come as Thailand enters its worst political unrest since the 2010 riots.