Protesters lay siege to more ministries; some officials express support

THAILAND - For a third day yesterday, anti-government protesters continued to lay siege to key government offices in order to challenge Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government and her brother Thaksin's authority.

The protesters earlier managed to lay siege to two key government offices - the Finance Ministry and the Foreign Ministry - and as of press time yesterday, they had entered the Government Complex in Chaeng Wattana, where tens of thousands of state officials work.

The protesters yesterday visited different ministries, calling on officials to join forces to help root out the so-called "Thaksin regime" and pushing them to go on strike.

The protesters showed up at the Industry, Energy, Labour, Public Health, Commerce, Natural Resources and Environment, Social Development and Human Security, Science, and Culture ministries, the Department of Special Investigation Office, and Government Complex.

After marching for four hours, the protesters led by former Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban moved from the Finance Ministry to the Government Complex on Chaeng Wattana Road. He said he would stay overnight before moving on to the next place. The protest might lead to suspension of government operations.

Meanwhile, national police chief General Adul Saengsingkaew said the situation in Bangkok and nearby areas would be under control thanks to the Internal Security Act. He said there was no need at present to issue an emergency decree, which allows officials to easily and widely control the movement of people.

In its eighth announcement, the Peacekeeping Centre announced yesterday that it was prohibiting the carrying of weapons in specific areas. Items listed as weapons include slingshots, metal balls, metal sticks and fireworks.

The raucous, whistle-blowing protesters were met by several flag-waving, whistle-blowing civil servants at some ministries. A hundred officials at the Public Health Ministry gathered outside the Office of the Permanent Secretary's building to greet the protesters, while several were also waiting to meet the anti-government crowd at the Commerce Ministry.

"Frankly speaking, I don't like this government," a Telephone Organisation of Thailand employee, who asked to remain anonymous, told DPA. "There have been many irregular practices under this administration."

Thousands of people rallied in front of the Department of Special Investigation office near the Justice Ministry at Government Complex yesterday. The DSI closed its doors at 11am yesterday as director-general Tarit Pengdith reported for work at Parliament to help Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri set up a war room.

Separately, hundreds of protesters sealed off the Commerce Ministry, which is located on Sanambinnam Road in Nonthaburi, at 9.30am yesterday and returned at 12.40pm as part of their visits to every ministry.

A large company of police officers was deployed to protect the ministry and officials were sent home. A foreign envoy from a European country was left stranded for a while at the Commerce Ministry compound, but was eventually safely escorted out.

Srirat Rastapana, permanent secretary to the ministry, said all officials had been told to save their data on a flash drive so they could work from home.

Other ministries targeted by the protesters have kept their gates closed, while some, such as the Foreign Ministry, have allowed their officials to either go home or work from a different venue.