BANGKOK - Thailand's mass political protests spread outside the capital Wednesday as opposition demonstrators stepped up their attempts to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government, plunging the country deeper into crisis.
Raucous, whistle-blowing crowds have besieged government buildings in Bangkok to challenge Yingluck and her exiled brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in the biggest protests since mass street rallies in 2010 that turned deadly.
Demonstrators also rallied outside at least a dozen provincial halls mainly in the opposition's southern heartlands - including on the tourist island of Phuket.
The turmoil comes as Yingluck's embattled government faces a no-confidence motion in parliament introduced by the opposition Democrats, who have not won an elected majority in about two decades.
While the demos have so far been largely peaceful, there are fears they could descend into another bout of street violence in a country that has seen several episodes of political unrest since Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup.
The billionaire tycoon-turned-politician is adored by many of the country's rural and urban working class. But he is reviled by many in the elite and the middle classes, who accuse him of being corrupt and a threat to the monarchy.
Up to 10,000 protesters gathered Wednesday at a large office complex on the northern outskirts of Bangkok that houses several key government agencies, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
Their numbers swelled dramatically as protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban marched into the compound, flanked by thousands of other demonstrators.
"We are very upbeat and I think we will win in a few days," the former deputy premier and key opposition figure told reporters earlier as he left his de facto headquarters at the occupied finance ministry.
A defiant Suthep on Tuesday called for the creation of an unelected administration to run the country, in the clearest indication yet that the demonstrators are seeking to suspend the democratic system.
"If we demolish the Thaksin regime ... we will set up a people's council which will come from people from every sector," he said.
"Then we will let the people's council pick good people to be the prime minister and ministers."