Thai protesters threaten to seize PM

BANGKOK - Thousands of Thai opposition protesters marched on government buildings in the capital yesterday as part of their "shutdown" of Bangkok aimed at derailing elections and toppling the government.

Demonstrators stopped officials from going to work at several key ministries and even threatened to take Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra captive.

Several thousand demonstrators gathered outside the Thai Customs department to prevent staff from going to work.

Their firebrand leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, vowed from a rally stage in the heart of Bangkok's commercial district to "capture" the Premier and her Cabinet ministers "one by one" if they do not quit within days.

Rally leader Satish Sehgal, railing at former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's alleged stranglehold on the nation's politics, said: "This is not democracy. It is autocracy... It is a one-man rule."

Demonstrators also surrounded the ministries of commerce, labour, and information and communication technology. It is a tactic they have deployed several times during the protests, which have so far failed in their goal of forcing Ms Yingluck from office.

Many key junctions in the Thai capital remained blocked, with loudspeakers broadcasting bombastic speeches into the city air after protesters launched the shutdown on Monday, causing widespread disruption to Bangkok's central retail and hotel districts.

But the number of demonstrators on the streets appeared to have declined as some returned to work.

A hardcore faction of the movement has threatened to besiege the stock exchange and even air-traffic control if Ms Yingluck does not step down within days.

Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul insisted that the government was still functioning. He said the shutdown was expected to last about one week, urging protest leaders to join talks to find a way out of the crisis.