|Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (C) answers a question|
from the media upon her arrival prior to a no-cofidence debate at the
parliament in Bangkok on November 26, 2013
Thailand's mass political protests spread outside the capital Wednesday as opposition demonstrators stepped up their attempts to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government, plunging the country deeper into crisis.
Demonstrators have paralysed government ministries in Bangkok to challenge Yingluck and her exiled brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in the biggest street protests since mass rallies in 2010 that turned deadly.
Stepping up their action Wednesday, protesters entered a major government complex in the northern outskirts of the capital and also forced the evacuation of the Justice Department's besieged Department of Special Investigations.
Outside Bangkok, protesters gathered at about 25 provincial halls mainly in the opposition's southern heartlands -- including on the tourist island of Phuket.
"We will not give up even if the prime minister resigns or dissolves parliament. We will stop only when power is in the hands of the people," protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told supporters.
Warning that the political turmoil could affect economic confidence, the central bank unexpectedly cut its key interest rate by 25 basis points, to 2.25 percent.
|An anti-government protester holds a protest placard during a |
demonstration at the Department Special Investigation (DSI)
in Bangkok on November 27, 2013
The billionaire tycoon-turned-politician is adored by many of the country's rural and urban working class. But he is reviled by many in the elite and the middle classes, who accuse him of being corrupt and a threat to the monarchy.
Suthep on Tuesday called for the creation of an unelected administration to run the country, in the clearest indication yet that the demonstrators are seeking to suspend the democratic system.
"If we demolish the Thaksin regime ... we will set up a people's council which will come from people from every sector," he said. "Then we will let the people's council pick good people to be the prime minister and ministers."
On Tuesday protesters surrounded the interior, agriculture, transport, and sports and tourism ministries, ordering officials inside to leave, a day after occupying the finance and foreign ministries.
"The situation is serious but it is under control," Pracha Promnog, a deputy prime minister, told reporters after a meeting with the premier.
|Map locating Thailand's capital Bangkok, where oppposition |
protesters have besieged several ministries
The recent protests were sparked by plans by the ruling Puea Thai party to introduce an amnesty that could have allowed the return from self-imposed exile of Thaksin.
The Senate blocked the controversial bill but demonstrators have since broadened their goal and now want to topple the government.
Yingluck on Monday ordered the expansion across Bangkok of the Internal Security Act, which gives authorities additional powers to block routes, impose a curfew, ban gatherings and carry out searches.
An estimated crowd of up to 180,000 people joined an opposition rally on Sunday, but turnout has since fallen sharply.
The turmoil comes as Yingluck's embattled government faces a no-confidence motion in parliament that she is expected to easily survive.
One option could be for Yingluck to dissolve the lower house afterwards and call fresh elections, knowing that pro-Thaksin parties have won every election for more than a decade.
She has ruled out the use of force to end the protests, mindful of the bloodshed which erupted in 2010, when more than 90 people died in a military crackdown on pro-Thaksin protests under the previous government.
The possibility of military intervention also constantly looms over Thailand, which has seen 18 actual or attempted coups since 1932, but the army has so far shown no sign that it is preparing to get involved