Security tightened as Thai protesters seek PM's downfall

Security tightened as Thai protesters seek PM's downfall

BANGKOK - Police tightened security in Thailand's capital on Saturday as thousands of protesters rallied outside a state telecommunications group and vowed to occupy Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's office to paralyse her administration.

Faced with dwindling support, demonstrators have started to up the ante and burst into the headquarters of the army on Friday, urging it to join their side in a complex power struggle centred on the enduring political influence of Yingluck's billionaire brother, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

"On Sunday, brothers and sisters, we will announce our victory and our defeat of the Thaksin regime," protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told a rally of thousands late on Friday.

By midday Saturday, several thousand were outside the offices of state-owned TOT Plc, a telecoms company.

They also plan to surround headquarters of the national and city police, Government House and even a zoo. "We need to break the law a little bit to achieve our goals," said Suthep, deputy prime minister under the previous government that Yingluck routed in a 2011 election.

Hundreds of police emptied out of buses and vans near the prime minister's office at Government House in Bangkok's old quarter. One police official told Reuters about 5,000 police would reinforce the area over the day.

Suthep's threats heighten a conflict that broadly pits the urban middle class against the mostly rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin.

Thaksin was removed in a 2006 military coup and convicted two years later of graft - charges he says were politically motivated. The former telecommunications tycoon has lived abroad in self-imposed exile since 2008, but remains closely entwined with government, sometimes holding meetings with Yingluck's cabinet by webcam.

Suthep urged followers to end the "Thaksin regime" by shutting a government administrative complex on Saturday and by Sunday, moving on the ministries of labour, foreign affairs, education and interior.

The government has vowed to stay open and maintain order."We will avoid the use of force," said Pracha Promnok, a deputy prime minister. "But if protesters attempt to enter government buildings, we may have to use our powers to stop them."

Pracha said the government can continue to function even if ministries are besieged by working from backup locations.

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