BANGKOK - In a symbolic move, hundreds of anti-government protesters stormed the Army headquarters on Rajdamnoen Nok Road Friday and briefly occupied the lawn of the headquarters.
The move was one of the more dramatic moments in their campaign to topple the Yingluck Shinawatra government.
Protesters led by leaders of Students and People Network for Thailand's Reform started marching from their base in Nang Lerng at around 11.30am and arrived outside the Army office around noon.
About 80 men standing hand in hand gathered and pushed down the front gate. Some climbed over the gate. The protesters were warned by their leaders not to break into any buildings or offices. They gathered on the front yard of the army headquarters building with many posing for photographs within the grounds. Former yellow shirt leader Chamlong Srimuang and Pajun Tamprateep, a former close aide to Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda were seen at the site.
Leader Uthai Yodmanee took a stage on a truck and demanded Army Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and the army to declare what side it is on.
A representative of the Royal Thai Army told the protesters the military would not use any force against the protesters. Moreover, the military had prepared first aid kits and drinking water for the visitors. The protesters later submitted a letter to the Army's commander-in-chief and left the site around two hours later to return to their base.
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters composing of members of the Business Club for Democracy and alumni and current students of many educational institutes blowing whistles and waving national flags gathered at about 11am at Asoke Skytrain station before marching to the US Embassy.
Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij joined the rally. Posting a photo of himself riding on the Skytrain on his Facebook page, Abhisit said "See you at Asoke."
They then marched to the US Embassy on Wireless Road. The protesters waved placards, some of them said "Stop serving Thaksin regime", and "Get Out, Thaksin's servants". People along the road took photos, blew whistles and waved the national flag.
At the US embassy, protest representatives submitted a note to the US government, saying that the Yingluck government has no legitimacy.
Police stepped up security at the US Embassy earlier out of fear that a third-party group may use the confusion during the protest to attack the embassy.
Police were deployed from the Metropolitan Police Division 5, Lumpini Police station, Special Branch Police, the 191 Task Force and Arintharat commando unit to guard the embassy from early in the morning. Police also guarded the US ambassador's residence and the consular office.
In another rally, a group of people who called themselves "patriots" led by Srivara Issara, the owner of Charn Issara building began a cheerful parade heading to the headquarters of the Pheu Thai Party. About 300 police were deployed outside the party office after protest leaders announced their plan.