Newspaper article International New York Times

Protesters Go beyond Bangkok in Effort to Oust Government

Newspaper article International New York Times

Protesters Go beyond Bangkok in Effort to Oust Government

Article excerpt

Antigovernment demonstrators massed at over a dozen municipal buildings across Thailand on Wednesday and continued to occupy central government offices.

Antigovernment demonstrators who are seeking in their own words to "overthrow" the Thai government took their campaign outside Bangkok on Wednesday, massing at more than a dozen municipal buildings across Thailand and forcing the evacuation of the country's main criminal investigative agency on the outskirts of the Thai capital.

"These people are trying to portray the country as a failed state," said Charupong Ruangsuwan, the interior minister and head of the governing party.

Protesters have shut down the Finance Ministry since Monday and on Wednesday marched to a large government complex on the outskirts of the capital and cut the electricity supply to the Department of Special Investigation, the equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States.

Mr. Charupong said that in addition to Bangkok, there were protests in one-third of the country's 76 provinces, including all provinces in southern Thailand, an opposition stronghold.

Citing the political unrest and other unfavorable economic factors, the Thai central bank on Wednesday announced a cut in a benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 2.25 percent.

To the outside world, the government's response has appeared impotent in the face of protesters who have traversed Bangkok and shut down key government offices. Even the military appears to have retreated. The country's top generals decamped this week from their headquarters to the safety of a well-guarded army base on the outskirts of Bangkok.

One of the country's most senior officials in charge of security portrayed the government's response as a calculated effort to allow the protests to die away.

Lt. Gen. Paradorn Pattanathabutr, the secretary general of the National Security Council, said Wednesday that the number of protesters was decreasing and that the government was counting on "dialogue," not the use of force, to end the protests.

"People are learning lessons and becoming more civilized," he said. "I believe that the people can exercise discretion and will understand the damages that could be inflicted on Thailand."

General Paradorn said he was hoping that Suthep Thaugsuban, the main leader of the protests, would surrender "like a gentleman." A Bangkok court issued a warrant on Tuesday for Mr. Suthep's arrest on charges of invading government property and breach of the peace. On Wednesday, the government also asked a court to issue warrants for six other protest leaders.

As the 86th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej approaches, some analysts say the government is making the risky and uncertain calculation that the protesters will disperse in the coming days. …

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