Thai protesters target army, ruling party headquarters

Thai protesters target army, ruling party headquarters

BANGKOK - Defiant Thai opposition protesters stormed the army headquarters and besieged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's party offices on Friday, intensifying their fight to bring down her government.

Boisterous demonstrators have targeted key government buildings in Bangkok in the biggest street protests since mass rallies in 2010 degenerated into the kingdom's worst civil strife in decades.

The protesters - a mix of royalists, southerners and the urban middle class sometimes numbering in their tens of thousands - are united by their loathing of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The controversial former telecoms tycoon was ousted in a coup in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile, but he is widely believed to be the real power behind the embattled government of his younger sister Yingluck.

Protesters are demanding the end of the "Thaksin regime" and want to replace the government with an unelected "people's council".

Demonstrators forced open the gates of the army headquarters in Bangkok, calling on the military to support their fight to bring down the government. Thousands of flag-waving demonstrators massed on the lawn inside the army compound in Bangkok's historic district, sheltering under sun umbrellas.

"We want to know whether the army will stand by the people not a dictator," said a protest leader, Amorn Amornrattananont.

Demonstrators also massed outside the headquarters of Yingluck's Puea Thai party, setting up a tense standoff with riot police guarding the building.

The provocative twin-pronged move against key symbols of authority came a day after protesters cut off the electricity to the national police headquarters, ignoring Yingluck's plea for calm after she won a parliamentary no confidence vote.

With their spirits buoyed by free food and a party atmosphere, demonstrators have massed at several locations around the capital, including outside many major government buildings.

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