Thai protesters seek to topple PM after clashes

Thai protesters seek to topple PM after clashes

BANGKOK - Thai anti-government protesters vowed to demonstrate again on Monday and forge ahead with a"people's coup" campaign to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, a day after battling riot police outside her fortified office compound.

The protesters had set Sunday as "Victory Day" to oust the government but failed to achieve their goal of seizing the prime minister's office at Government House or occupying state buildings, despite intense clashes with riot police.

Police mostly held their lines, firing repeated rounds of tear gas and using water cannons against 30,000 protesters, many of whom hurled rocks and petrol bombs. Yingluck was forced to flee a police compound to an undisclosed location.

It is the latest dramatic turn in a conflict pitting Bangkok's urban middle class and royalist elite against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist former prime minister ousted in a 2006 military coup.

Protest leader Suthep Thaungsuban said he met with Yingluck on Sunday but insisted there were no negotiations to end the worst political crisis since bloody political unrest in 2010. "I told Yingluck that if police put down their weapons, we will welcome them as they are also Thai," he told supporters late on Sunday. "I told Yingluck that this will be our only meeting and we will not meet again until the people win."

The meeting, he said, was arranged by the military, a powerful institution that has publicly taken sides against Thaksin-allied governments in previous political crises but which has expressed neutrality in the current conflict.

Suthep, 64, set a Tuesday deadline for Yingluck, 46, to step aside and repeated his call for civil servants to go on strike on Monday. "Stop working for the Thaksin regime and come out and protest," he said.

Several major universities announced closures on Monday, citing the safety of students. The government has urged people in Bangkok, a metropolis of 10 million, to stay indoors from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

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