Thailand protesters swarm telecommunications agencies
Thousands of protesters entered the compounds of Thailand’s main state-run telecommunications enterprises on Saturday in an effort to paralyze the government.
The demonstrators broke in to the compounds of the Telephone Organization of Thailand and Communications Authority of Thailand, which handle domestic and international telecommunication services, respectively.
They did not immediately enter the buildings, Blue Sky television channel reported.
The two agencies are located in northern Bangkok area that is a hub for government Ministries and agencies.
Minister of Information and Communication Technology Anudith Nakornthap said telecommunication services would not be interrupted if the offices were occupied because, “We have back-up system to provide service in case of emergency.” On Sunday, the protesters plan to occupy or surround 10 government installations including the offices of the Cabinet and ministries of interior, foreign affairs, commerce, education, finance and labour, said Ekkanat Phompan, spokesman of the Civil Movement for Democracy.
They would also target the government public relations department, the National Police headquarters and Dusit Zoo, He said their plan was to make it impossible for the government to function as of Monday.
“We acknowledge that this is illegal and will accept any punishment,” said Mr. Ekkanat, an opposition Democrat Party politician who resigned from parliament to join the protests.
Suthep Thaungsuban, a former senior Democrat who also resigned from Parliament, has led occupations of the Budget Bureau since Monday and the Government Complex since Wednesday hoping to paralyze the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Mr. Suthep vowed to topple the government and “uproot the Thaksin regime”, a reference to Thaksin Shinawatra, the Premier’s elder brother and de facto leader of her ruling Pheu Thai Party.
Mr. Thaksin has been living abroad since 2008 to avoid a two-year jail sentence for abuse of power. He was Prime Minister between 2001 to 2006 before being ousted by a coup.
Mr. Suthep called for a People’s Assembly to push through political reforms, especially on electoral practices, before any new election.
Government sources said they think the protesters were trying to provoke another coup, although the military to date has shown no signs of supporting the protests.
“The only way that Suthep can accomplish what he wants is with some kind of a coup d’etat, something unconstitutional,” said Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng.
The current constitution has no mechanism for setting up a People’s Assembly, Mr. Chaturon said.
There have been 18 coups in Thailand over the past 80 years.
Bangkok has been rocked by protests since November 1, when the ruling coalition attempted to push through an amnesty that would have pardoned Mr. Thaksin and thousands of other politically related cases during 2004-13.
The amnesty bill was later rejected by the Senate.