Brief calm as Thai cops remove barriers

Brief calm as Thai cops remove barriers
Police officers (above) handing flowers to protesters as they removed barriers to government compounds on Tuesday, giving access to the places demonstrators had been fighting to occupy. A protester celebrating after opening the Government House’s gate.

An unexpected calm descended on Bangkok after police removed barriers leading to key government offices and allowed protesters access to the compounds they had been battling to occupy in the past week.

After a violent three days in which at least four people died and more than 200 were injured, jubilant, flag-waving protesters entered the compounds of the Prime Minister's Office and city police headquarters, before retreating to their original rally sites in the capital's historical district. Some believe the truce was brokered behind the scenes to smoothen birthday celebrations for the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who turned 86 on Thursday.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in a televised statement last night, invited academics, businessmen and protesters to join a reform forum "to find the best way out for our country and our children, and in order to get the economy back on track".

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban hailed a partial victory but declared: "Our fight will continue."

The former opposition lawmaker has been leading a campaign to eliminate what he calls the "Thaksin regime" from Thai politics.

Thaksin Shinawatra, the brother of Ms Yingluck and former prime minister of Thailand, is widely seen to be pulling the strings of the government even though he was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives in self-imposed exile to avoid serving a jail sentence for corruption.

Mr Suthep's campaign, which has drawn tens of thousands of people onto the streets, has been supported by old money, royalists, the urban middle class, as well as a considerable number of people from the southern provinces, a key opposition Democrat stronghold.

He has repeatedly pushed for an ill-defined "people's council", saying that Ms Yingluck's resignation or a parliament dissolution will not work as elections will allow Thaksin-backed politicians to triumph again. The tycoon remains a cult figure among Thailand's rural masses, a crucial vote bank.

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