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Thai protesters shutdown Bangkok to force PM's resignation

January 13, 2014 19:58 IST

Thousands of anti-government protesters on Monday sealed off parts of Thailand's congested capital Bangkok as part of an intensified campaign to force embattled Premier Yingluck Shinawatra to step down.

Demonstrators gathered at seven major intersections in Bangkok, barricading roads and calling for the resignation of Yingluck and the ruling Pheu Thai Party.

Demonstrators have said they will surround other ministerial houses, and cut off electricity and water supplies at some government offices.

They also threatened to block the entrance to Aerothai, which is a network centre for linking air traffic control posts across Thailand, a major tourist destination.

Department of Civil Aviation has threatened the protesters with harsh penalties if they attempt to stop the work of air traffic controllers.

Demonstrators could face prison terms of up to 15 years and be fined up to 60,000 rupees for any disruption of air traffic control, the official said on Monday.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand has also been singled out as a target by protesters.

However, all shopping malls were open and people clicked photos of protesters who all carried Thai flags and shouted "Quit Yingluck" as they peacefully marched across the city.

The Indian Embassy here advised its nationals to avoid places where protests were being planned.

The protesters said they would continue the campaign till the premier quit.

One protester was shot and injured while he was guarding a barrier at the Chaeng Wattana rally site late last night by an unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle, police said.

The opposition Democrat party, which has not won polls in two decades, has been venting its ire against the Yingluck government for two months now holding protest marches.

The protesters want Yingluck and her brother former premier Thaksin Shinawatra out of Thai politics. Thaksin was overthrown in a coup in 2006 and is in self-exile in Dubai.

Yingluck has called for snap polls on February 2 following weeks of opposition protests. But the opposition has said it will boycott the polls. Today is their first massive protest aimed at shutting down the city.

Ruling Pheu Thai Party leader and caretaker Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan said the government was ready to consider the Election Commission proposal that the polls be postponed, but said the agency should state why it believed the election would go smoothly if it was held on May 4.

Charupong said that legally, the election could not be postponed beyond February 6, as the election law stated it must be held within 60 days of a House dissolution.

The only exceptions are in cases of disasters or riots, and only in the affected areas, not nationwide. "If we postpone because of fears that there would be violence, it would set a bad precedent for future elections," he said. 

Jaishree Balasubramanian in Bangkok
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