Thai police fail to retake anti-gov't protest sites

'Operation Valentine' aimed at 'enforcing the law' and ending inconvenience to Bangkok residents.

Thai police fail to retake anti-gov't protest sites

World Bulletin / News Desk

Thailand's beleaguered government on Friday tried to retake sites in the Thai capital from anti-government protesters, but a police operation was aborted following a minor explosion and a failure to negotiate with protest leaders.

Hundreds of anti-riot police - armed with riot shields, truncheons and backed by platoons armed with automatic rifles - attempted to clear a large area around Government House in the old quarter of Bangkok, and also confronted protesters in the city's north.

National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattanatabut said that the operation - codenamed “Operation Valentine” to coincide with the February 14 timing - was aimed at “enforcing the law” and ending inconvenience to Bangkok residents.

Protesters have occupied the sites for around three months in an effort to remove Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her government from power.

Police managed to retake a part of Rajdamnoen road, a broad avenue next to Government house, which had been abandoned at dawn by the demonstrators. In tents, formerly occupied by protesters, they found a number of small bombs, slingshots and, according to local newspaper “The Nation”, a cache of arms.

Several hours later, however, police were forced to withdraw after protestors blocked their path and a small bomb exploded, injuring a Thai journalist and a female protester.

In the northern part of the city, next to a large civil servant complex, a stand off occurred between police and demonstrators for several hours. Protesters - mostly female, led by a combative Buddhist monk, Luang Pu Buddha Issara - sat on the ground and prayed, while police officers tryed in vain to negotiate a way past. Around mid-day, police withdrew.

The deputy-prime minister in charge of the operation, Chalerm Yoobamrung, said he had received orders not to suppress protestors for fear of bloodshed.

He vowed to again attempt to retake the sites on Saturday.

This latest bout in Thailand's political crisis sees middle-class and elite members of Thai society who support the traditional establishment oppose former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, Yingluck, and their rural support base.

The problems started in November, when the government pushed through parliament an amnesty bill which would have allowed Thaksin to return to Thailand a free man despite a conviction for abuse of power in 2008.

Thaksin is understood to have been living in Dubai, from where he is suspected of orchestrating his sister's win.

In order to diffuse the crisis, Yingluck withdrew the bill and dissolved parliament on December 9.

Legislative elections took place on February 2, but they were boycotted by the main opposition party and disrupted by anti-government protestors who call for reform to eliminate corruption from the political system before new elections can take place.

The protesters remain in Bangkok determined to disrupt the rerun elections.

Last Mod: 14 Şubat 2014, 11:14
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