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Thailand ‘shutdown’ protesters march on ministries

14th Jan 2014

Thai protesters have marched on government offices and ministries as part of their “Bangkok shutdown” campaign to oust embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Major intersections in the capital remain blocked.

On Tuesday morning, thousands of protesters peacefully marched on ministries, the customs office, the planning agency and other state bodies in a bid to paralyze government work.

The “shutdown” campaign was  launched Monday with tens of thousands of protesters occupying seven key intersections in the capital, which they have vowed to occupy until  Prime Minister Yingluck and her ruling Pheu Thai Party steps down .

The opposition claims Yingluck is a puppet for her brother, billionaire former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by the military in 2006 and is currently in self-exile to avoid serving jail time for a corruption conviction.

In a speech Monday, opposition leader and head of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), Suthep Thaugsuban, called on all civil servants, teachers and students to join the protest.

“Stop teaching, stop studying and come and join us,” said Suthep, who has led protests against the government since November. Hundreds of schools and universities have been closed due to this week’s protests.

In a bid to end the turmoil on December 9, Yingluck dissolved parliament and called a snap election for February 2. However, the opposition, has rejected the poll and is demanding that an unelected “people’s council” be appointed instead that could make reforms to the political system.

Yingluck invited protest leaders and political parties for talks on Wednesday to discuss an Election Commission proposal to postpone the vote, however, Suthep has refused.

Stock exchangethreatened

Amid Tuesday’s demonstrations, a student group allied to Suthep’s PDRC has threatened to attack the Bangkok stock exchange. A PDRC spokesman said the entity was not one its targets.

“We will not lay siege to places that provide services for the general public, including airports, the stock exchange and trains. However, we will block government offices to stop them from functioning,” Akanat Promphan told a rally of supporters.

The government has deployed about 18,000 soldiers and police to  maintain law and order . Despite mainly peaceful protests at least eight people have been killed in the last two months.

hc/dr (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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