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Bangkok Shutdown: Thai protesters block off key intersections in Bangkok

Published on Jan 13, 2014 11:38 AM

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have taken over key intersections in central Bangkok in a push to oust the government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

The blockades of seven major intersections including downtown business and upscale retail areas like Ratchaprasong and Pathumwan, began on Sunday night and consolidated on Monday  morning, with thousands setting up camp on the streets and many more still streaming in at mid morning to swell the crowds.

There was very little police presence at the rally points. More police were deployed at government buildings which could be besieged and occupied by the protesters from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) this week. But until mid morning no such attempts had yet been reported.

“We will fight regardless of whether we win or lose. We will not compromise or accept negotiation,” PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban told supporters late on Sunday night on the eve of what he has billed as the final push to derail mid-term polls scheduled for Feb 2, and force the Yingluck government out of office.

The protesters accuse Ms Yingluck of being a puppet to her billionaire brother Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin himself is in self-exile abroad dodging a two-year conviction for corruption.

Most establishments including several schools and universities in downtown Bangkok remained closed this morning, and attendance at offices was down by 50-80 per cent.

Outside central Bangkok, traffic was lighter than usual as most people stayed home. The city's three rapid commuter train lines remained running and were exceptionally crowded.

Overnight in two incidents that underlined the potential for violence, shots were fired at the headquarters of the opposition Democrat Party which is boycotting the Feb 2 election and supports the PDRC in its bid to oust Thaksin’s  network. A PDRC security guard was killed late on Sunday night in a fight with an unidentified man.

Nobody was hurt in the incident at the Democrat Party building, but thus far in about three months of political protests, eight people including two police officers have been killed and scores injured.

The PDRC movement is mostly in Bangkok and in the south – coinciding with the Democrat Party’s power base. The ruling Puea Thai party draws its support mostly from the populous north and north-east, and parts of the working class outskirts of Bangkok.

Most analysts believe the PDRC’s attempt to paralyse the administration and bring the capital to a halt, and derail the poll and force the setup of an unelected “people’s council”  to run the country and institute reforms before returning to elections, is leading Thailand into a political dead-end and trigger army intervention especially if violence breaks out between pro-and anti-government supporters.