Thai protesters blockade Bangkok streets and vow 'no compromise'

Protests that began in November are seeking establishment of a new government free from Shinawatra influence

Thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets of Bangkok on Monday in their push to oust the government, closing down major intersections and blockading avenues through the city centre.

"This is the only way to force the government out," said Ban Jon, 52, a durian fruit farmer who had travelled 120 miles in a convoy to the Thai capital, where he planned to sleep on the street "for as long as it takes". "When you compare governments [in Thailand], yes, they are all corrupt, but this one is the worst. We deserve a government that treats us more responsibly," he said.

Led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a career politician who stepped down as an MP to campaign against the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, the protesters are calling for an end to so-called money politics and corruption and the establishment of a new government free from the influence of the Shinawatra family.

Yingluck's brother, Thaksin, was ousted as prime minister in a military coup in 2006 but is widely believed to be pulling the strings from Dubai.

Protesters have been demanding Yingluck's resignation since November, when her Pheu Thai party tried to push through a late-night amnesty bill that would have allowed for the return of her much-maligned brother. At least eight people have been killed in protests, with seven injured at the weekend.

Analysts have raised concerns over a possible intervention by the military, with the army chief recently refusing to rule it out. But on Monday the protests were peaceful and festive, with singalongs and the sharing of food and drink. The protesters range from academics and businessmen to students, farmers and entrepreneurs, many of whom had travelled from provinces across the country. They were joined by celebrities and musicians who took to stages at seven main rally sites to keep up the energy under the January sun.

Those at Asok, one of the larger sites, in downtown Bangkok, were surprised to see Srivara Issara, 59, a property mogul worth an estimated £20m, who led the crowd in Buddhist meditation and prayer.

The protests are thought to have affected 1.2 million people and are costing the government roughly £19m a day, with schools, universities and many businesses closed.


Kate Hodal in Bangkok

The GuardianTramp

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