Thai PM tightens security as protests escalate

Thai PM tightens security as protests escalate

BANGKOK - Thailand’s embattled premier on Monday invoked a special security law in the tense capital Bangkok and nearby areas after protesters stormed key ministries in a bid to topple the government.

The mass rallies against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, are the biggest since 2010 when more than 90 civilians were killed in a bloody military crackdown. The United States called for restraint on both sides and said it was monitoring the situation closely.

The turmoil has raised fears of a fresh bout of street violence in a country that has been convulsed by several episodes of political unrest since royalist generals overthrew Thaksin in a 2006 coup.

The special law, which had already been in force in several districts of the capital and is known as the Internal Security Act, gives the police additional powers to block routes, impose a curfew, ban gatherings and carry out searches.

Tens of thousands of protesters opposed to Yingluck’s elected government marched on more than a dozen state agencies across Bangkok, including military and police bases, as well as several television stations. Hundreds of demonstrators swarmed into finance ministry buildings and later forced their way into the foreign ministry compound, which were both apparently left unguarded by government security forces. Demonstrators broke down the gates to the foreign ministry and after occupying an area of the compound they asked civil servants to leave and not to return to work the next day, according to a ministry spokesman.

There was no immediate sign that the government was preparing to try to evict the demonstrators from the ministries, where they stayed into the night, despite Yingluck’s decision to impose the Internal Security Act in the entire capital.

“While the government will enforce the laws it will not use force against the people,” Yingluck said.

“The government would like to ask people not to join illegal protests and to respect the law,” she added.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban called for the occupation on Tuesday of “all government agencies”.

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