Thai PM vows to meet protesters with pacifism

Thai PM vows to meet protesters with pacifism

BANGKOK - Thai opposition protesters have met virtually no resistance while storming ministries and setting up camp in key government buildings, as the prime minister appears determined to snuff the oxygen from rallies aimed at ousting her from power.

With a readily-assembled kit of stages and food stalls, the anti-government protesters have quickly dug-in at the buildings under their occupation, while continuing to besiege more key targets.

In an unprecedentedly brazen move Friday protesters forced their way into the army's headquarters briefly, the latest in a string of provocative acts by groups bent on ousting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and ridding the country of the influence of her divisive brother Thaksin.

The demonstrations are the biggest rallies to rock the Thai capital since mass 2010 street action by the pro-Thaksin "Red Shirts" that ended in the country's worst political bloodshed for decades.

They are also the greatest threat yet faced by Yingluck, who defended her soft-touch approach on Saturday.

"We have chosen to be considered as a weak government by not using force," she told reporters at a briefing at police headquarters in the capital.

"I don't want to see a nightmare situation, so we have decided to let unarmed police oversee the situation," she added.

The police force is far from visible in Bangkok, except around the barbed wire-barricaded Government House, which protesters have set as a key target for Sunday as they aim to declare it their "day of victory".

Dozens of soldiers have been deployed to Government House to boost security, but General Niphat Thonglek, defence ministry permanent secretary, said they would be "unarmed".

"The government doesn't want to react violently. It is exactly what the protesters want. They want a violent reaction from the government so that they can get sympathy and support," said Thailand expert Andrew Walker, a professor at Australian National University.

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