A crowd of more than 1,200 demonstrators occupied the grounds at Thailand’s National Army Headquarters on Friday. The Thai protesters initially stormed the grounds en masse, breaking the lock on the gate and rushing into the lightly guarded headquarters compound. The demonstrators then stopped and settled in, waving flags and chanting peacefully.
They delivered a letter to the chief of the army asking for help in removing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The protesters did not actually call for a coup, but urged the army to “take a stand” in Thailand’s ongoing political and economic crisis.
The boisterous but well-behaved crowd sat on the lawn of the Royal Thai Army headquarters for more than two hours before leaving without further incident. It was, however, obviously an act of civil disobedience laden with symbolism in a country that has lived through more than a dozen military coups over the last 80 years.
Thai protesters seize government buildings
Protests against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of exiled ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, began more than a week ago. Throughout the week, tens of thousands of protesters have seized government buildings and even camped out at them in a few locations. Their goal is to force a government shutdown by getting civil servants to join their cause.
More than 100,000 demonstrators showed up on Sunday, but the numbers have dwindled to just tens of thousands recently. That said, organizers have kept the protest invigorated and the authorities off balance by moving demonstrations to new locations every day.
The Finance Ministry was taken over by Thai protesters on Monday and is still occupied. Other demonstrators have been camped out since Wednesday at a government complex housing national law enforcement agencies. The demonstrators took steps further on Thursday when they cut the power to police headquarters in Bangkok and implored police to join them.
Other Friday protests
Well-organized Thai protesters showed up at several locations on Friday, with a crowd of several thousand demonstrators holding a rally at the headquarters of Yingluck’s ruling Pheu Thai Party. There no reports of violence despite the presence of hundreds of heavily armed police.
Another crowd of more than a thousand Thai protesters worked their way through central Bangkok to demonstrate in front of the U.S. During the protest, opposition lawmaker Korn Chatikavanij delivered a letter denouncing Yingluck’s leadership as illegitimate. When interviewed, he said the letter was in response to a statement from US officials expressing concern about the protests.