The political movement aimed at overthrowing Prime Minister
Yingluck Shinawatra is in its fifth month, but leader Suthep
Thaugsuban closed several big protest sites at the weekend as his
number of supporters dwindled.
The government is also grappling with action by farmers, normally
its staunchest supporters, in protest at a rice subsidy scheme that
has gone badly wrong, leaving hundreds of thousands of them unpaid
and causing huge losses to the budget.
On Wednesday the state bank managing the scheme said it expected to
start paying some arrears next week but the sum announced failed to
impress farmers who have been demonstrating at the Commerce Ministry
"That 30 billion baht is very small compared to the total 130
billion baht the government should have paid us since October," said
Kittisak Waraha, one of the farmers' leaders, referring to a sum
cited by officials earlier this year.
Suthep's anti-government protesters have largely kept to Lumpini
Park in central Bangkok since the weekend.
But about 300 members of an allied student-led group went to the
headquarters of Yingluck's Puea Thai Party on Wednesday, having
latched on to vague separatist talk by some of her supporters,
including a suggestion the government could move from Bangkok to her
northern stronghold of Chiang Mai.
They attached a banner to the building saying "Stop the campaign to
split Thailand" but left soon afterwards and there was no
They moved on briefly to the excise department as part of a campaign
to stop ministries and state agencies from functioning, which Suthep
said would be stepped up even though his supporters ended a blockade
of main roads from the weekend.
STATE OF EMERGENCY
The government imposed a 60-day state of emergency on January 21 to
contain the latest unrest in an eight-year conflict that broadly
pits Bangkok's middle class, the royalist establishment and southern
Thais against the mostly rural supporters of Yingluck and her
brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
On Tuesday it said the emergency could be extended until the
protests ended completely and there was no more violence.
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However, the focus is moving away from the streets and towards
judicial efforts to remove Yingluck, including a charge of
dereliction of duty brought against her by the National
Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) over the rice fiasco.
She has been given until March 14 to defend herself. The NACC will
then decide whether there is a case to pursue and, if it goes ahead,
she may be forced to step down.
A grenade was lobbed into the grounds of the NACC building late on
Tuesday. No one was hurt.
Parties of Thaksin have won every election since 2001 and the main
aim of the protesters is to change the electoral system to end his
influence. They disrupted a general election held on February 2 that
Yingluck looked set to win.
Thaksin, a former telecoms tycoon, has lived abroad since 2008 to
avoid a jail term for a graft conviction he says was politically
At least 23 people have been killed in the unrest since November 30,
including four children in Bangkok and the eastern province of Trat.
Hundreds of people have been hurt.
(Additional reporting by Pairat Temphairojana and Apornrath
Phoonphongphiphat; writing by Alan Raybould)
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