Besieged but running: Thailand's Finance Ministry

Besieged but running: Thailand's Finance Ministry

BANGKOK - Protesters are bedding down on plastic sheets in its grand reception area. Some bathe in the well-kept garden or hang laundry from its potted plants.

But Thailand's Finance Ministry insists it still runs despite thousands of demonstrators occupying its buildings.

As political tension rises in Bangkok, protesters seeking to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra settled in at the Finance Ministry on Tuesday for a second day.

Most bureaucrats left on Monday when the protesters stormed in, waving flags and blowing whistles. But a determined few stayed behind, including those at the all-important revenue department.

"Today we work normally in the office," said a Revenue Department officer.

Very little is normal, however, about the besieged ministry in Bangkok's government district.

Not all its seven buildings have power. Protesters flicked the switch on a transformer outside the main building to shut off the lights shortly before entering on Monday.

Many senior civil servants retreated to a back-up office at a central business district building.

"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."

There was no imminent threat to auctions of government bonds, which are handled by the Bank of Thailand. One of its officials said an auction of 5 billion baht (S$200 million) of government bonds on Wednesday would be conducted as usual.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, until recently a senior Democrat Party politician, told Reuters on Tuesday that the demonstration "might be longer" than the three days originally planned. He has camped overnight in the building.

The Finance Ministry protesters seem to be taking that news seriously. They form human chains beneath pick-up trucks to unload hundreds of packs of drinking water.

In scenes more like a rock festival than a revolution, electricity generators have been set up in the parking lot to power the stage lights and sound system.

They also recharge the cellphones which protesters use to shoot "selfies" in front of the ministry's official bird-of-paradise seal.

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