Thai Protesters Storm Army Headquarters

Nov 29, 2013

Protesters in Thailand stormed the grounds of the army headquarters Friday, seeking the military's help in toppling the prime minister, but in an interview with the BBC, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ruled out early elections to mollify the demonstrators.

The Associated Press reported that around 1,200 "broke the padlocked gate at the Royal Thai Army compound and forced their way inside, saying they wanted to submit a letter to the army chief." Protesters have occupied the Finance Ministry since Monday. At various other times, they have occupied the Foreign Ministry and the Department of Special Investigations, the country's equivalent of the FBI. Crowds have dwindled since the protests began, but organizers have called for bigger crowds this weekend.

Yingluck has ruled out using force against the protesters, and security forces have done little to stop the demonstrations that began last Sunday.

"I love this country. I devote myself to this country," Yingluck told the BBC. "I need only one thing for the country: we need to protect democracy."

As NPR's Doreen McCallister noted Thursday, Yingluck survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

We've been reporting on this story since the protests began Sunday. Here's the background to the protests:

"Protesters say Yingluck's government is controlled by her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006. The billionaire former telecommunications tycoon was convicted of corruption in 2008 and lives in self-imposed exile.

"Thaksin He remains a hugely polarizing figure in Thai politics. His supporters and opponents have battled since his ouster, and past clashes have been bloody. In 2010, his supporters occupied parts of Bangkok; 90 people were killed in the government crackdown that followed."

The protests pit the Thai elite against Thaksin's power base in the countryside. This round of protests began after a controversial amnesty bill that critics say would have allowed Thaksin to return home without serving a jail sentence for corruption. Thailand's Senaterejected the measure earlier this month.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.