Thai protest tensions ease as police abandon barricades

Thai protest tensions ease as police abandon barricades

BANGKOK - Thai police allowed opposition protesters through barricades outside the government and metropolitan police headquarters Tuesday, sharply easing tensions after two days of violent clashes aimed at ousting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The reason for the sudden thaw in hostilities was not immediately clear but it came after police said they would no longer use force to defend their Bangkok headquarters from thousands of anti-government protesters who marched on the high-profile target.

Demonstrators were allowed to approach the perimeter fence of Government House with no resistance from security forces. Dozens of protesters also streamed into the police building where they were seen shaking hands with officers, AFP reporters saw.

Metropolitan Police chief Lieutenant General Kamronwit Thoopkrajang said his officers would no longer try to fend off protesters at the police base.

"The Metropolitan Police Headquarters belongs to the public," he told AFP.

"There will be no use of tear gas today," he said. "Last night a police officer was injured by a gunshot so if we resist there will be more injuries, and we are all Thais," he said.

The protests, aimed at unseating the elected government and replacing it with a "people's council", are the latest bout of unrest in the kingdom since royalist generals ousted Yingluck's brother Thaksin Shinawatra in a coup seven years ago.

The demonstrators seized upon the developments to claim they had won the battle.

"Victory is in the hands of the people's army. We are able to seize all key government facilities," one of the protest leaders, Issara Somchai, said to supporters.

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