About 30,000 protesters launched a “people’s coup” on Thailand’s government on Sunday, swarming state agencies in violent clashes, taking control of a state broadcaster and forcing the prime minister to flee a police compound.
But after a day of skirmishes between protesters hurling stones and petrol bombs against riot police firing back with teargas, the demonstrators failed to breach heavily barricaded Government House, office of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The protesters sowed chaos in one of Southeast Asia’s biggest cities, breaching a police line, seizing seven police trucks, and forcing Yingluck to move to an undisclosed location from a building where she had planned to give media interviews.
Small fires burned from petrol bombs that landed by police trucks. Protesters pulled at barbed-wire barricades as others washed teargas from their eyes with bottled water.
The deep detonation of stun grenades, followed by the jeers of protesters, echoed across the historic government quarter, not far from the Khao San Road tourist area, after a chaotic night of gun and knife battles in east Bangkok in which three people were killed and at least 58 wounded.
Hospitals reported 46 people injured on Sunday.
Police spokesman Piya Utayo said troops would forcibly dislodge protesters who have occupied a government complex since Thursday and the Finance Ministry since Monday.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban urged government workers to go on strike on Monday and called on television stations to stop broadcasting state news.
”We invite all Thais to join us and defend democracy," he said in a speech televised live on all almost every station, including state-owned Thai PBS which agreed to broadcast the speech after protesters surged into its compound.
Capping a week-long bid to topple Yingluck and end her family’s more than decade-long influence over Thai politics, Suthep had urged supporters to seize government offices, television stations, police headquarters and the prime minister’s offices in a “people’s coup”.