Reuters: “Police And Protesters Face Off In Thai Capital”
Thousands of flag-waving, chanting protesters faced off with riot police in Bangkok on Friday, laying siege to the government’s headquarters in a bid to force it from power.
The main column of demonstrators briefly grappled with police en route to the prime minister’s office, where they sat down in front of barricades manned by a phalanx of police armed with plastic shields and batons.
Smaller groups probed the defenses around Government House, some breaking through after pushing and shoving with police, but there were no major incidents of violence.
“We are here to fight for democracy, for Thailand. We are here to protect the motherland,” media firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul told the 10,000-strong crowd made up mostly of middle-class Bangkok residents.
Sondhi is a co-leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a motley collection of businessmen, academics and royalists united by their hatred of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a 2006 coup.
The four-week campaign by the PAD, which views the coalition government elected in December as an illegitimate Thaksin proxy, has raised political tensions at a time of stuttering economic growth and soaring inflation.
Fears of clashes last month between police and demonstrators stoked rumors of another military coup less than two years after the army’s bloodless removal of Thaksin, who insists he has retired from politics although few believe him.
Metropolitan police chief Lieutenant-General Aswin Kwanmuang said his men would not use force to disperse the crowds.
Elsewhere, Bangkok Pundit is liveblogging the protests.