Reds besiege NACC HQ as PM gets hero's welcome in North

Thailand's caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra leaves the Royal Thai Air Force headquarters after a cabinet meeting in Bangkok.

BANGKOK - Hundreds of redshirts surrounded the national anti-graft agency yesterday and camped out in a bid to prevent the agency from pursuing a corruption case against caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) had scheduled today for Yingluck to acknowledge her charges related to rice-pledging scheme, but the premier yesterday began her trip to the north. It is uncertain whether she will present herself to hear charges against her at the NACC.

Three groups of redshirts joined yesterday's rally. The reds from Nonthaburi province, led by Chavalit Suriya and Suthichai Posapol, those from community radio groups - who padlocked the gates at the NACC and set up a stage and camped out - and a civil society group of 70 red shirts.

Mock coffins of NACC commissioners were placed in front of the office and petition letters were submitted by protesters demanding honest and equal treatment for all politicians.

None of the nine commissioners reported for work at the NACC yesterday.

Beginning her tour of the north and the northeast yesterday, Yingluck arrived in Chiang Rai province to a warm welcome from locals who embraced her and loudly called her to fight on. The greetings left the premier's eyes brimming with tears.

Hundreds of supporters of the prime minister gathered at the Air Force base and she later chaired a meeting at Chiang Rai police command on drug suppression.

A number of Cabinet members were present: caretaker Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan, Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt and Deputy Education Minister Sermsak Pongpanit. Deputy Police Chief Pol General Pongsapat Pongcharoen was also with the group.

Yingluck later visited Chiang Mai, her home province. Next week she will go to the Northeast to Udon Thani and Khon Kaen provinces, both strongholds of pro-government red shirts, to look into the issues of drought and drugs.

Kritsanapong Prombuengrum, leader of red shirts in eight northern provinces, said the reds are prepared to welcome and ensure the safety of the premier. Supporters will be deployed at various risky spots during her visits to the northern region.

"We must protect and ensure the safety of the prime minister, because the premier is the only person who can advance Thai democracy," he said.

He said the red shirts could not guarantee the safety of anti-government supporters if anyone should blow whistles as a symbol of protest against Yingluck.