Protesters storm key ministries

PM imposes ISA in city, parts of nearby provinces

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has imposed the Internal Security Act (ISA) across the capital and in nearby areas after protesters stormed key ministries in a bid to topple the government.

Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has now called on demonstrators to seize state offices nationwide, including provincial halls and district offices, after protesters on Monday stormed the Finance Ministry, the Budget Bureau, the Foreign Ministry and the Public Relations Department (PRD).

The move, which Mr Suthep described as a "peaceful people's revolution", has dramatically raised political tensions.

In a televised address last night, Ms declared the imposition of the ISA in all districts of Bangkok and Nonthaburi, Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan and in Lat Lum Kaeo district of Pathum Thani.

Ms Yingluck said the protests have changed from "peaceful" rallies to using people to seize state offices, break down gates, cut power and water supplies _ acts which she said were threats to national security. The ISA is needed to maintain law and order, she said.

However, she stressed that the government would not use force against the protesters.

Enforcing the ISA will strictly follow international standards and no violence will be used against members of the public, the prime minister said.

She said conflicts should be solved through dialogue and the parliamentary system.

Ms Yingluck urged the public not to support unlawful protests and to cooperate with the authorities.

Earlier in the day, Ms Yingluck insisted she would not dissolve the House or resign.

The ISA allows authorities to impose curfews, set up checkpoints and restrict the movement of demonstrators.

Suvarnabhumi airport is located in Bang Phli district and the Thaicom satellite station is in Lat Lum Kaeo.

Mr Suthep led about 10,000 protesters from the main rally site at Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue at 9.30am to the Budget Bureau, located in the same compound as the Finance Ministry. There, they demanded budget officials stop allocating money to the Yingluck administration and agencies allegedly "under the control of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's political networks".

The protesters marched to 13 state offices and media outlets in the capital yesterday to urge officials and media to support the anti-government movement.

They arrived at the Budget Bureau about 11.30am and demanded the gates be opened. Many officials at the state agency appeared to support the protesters by waving and blowing whistles.

At 1.40pm, the officials agreed to open the main gate and Mr Suthep ordered the protesters to storm the premises, forcing officials to leave.

"Let's enter every building, every floor, but do not hurt anyone, do not damage assets, just go sit down and rest," Mr Suthep told the protesters.

"All these buildings were built with our taxes. From today, water and electricity here will be cut off to block officials from working for this government," he told the crowd.

About 3.15pm, Mr Suthep ordered former Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth to lead about 600 protesters to seize the PRD, which is adjacent to the Budget Bureau.

Mr Suthep told reporters at the Finance Ministry the move was a people's revolution aimed at transforming the country into a "real constitutional monarchy".

He urged people in all provinces to seize all state offices to "paralyse" the government. "Just enter [the state premises] without weapons and do not hurt people," he said.

"This is the seizing of state power in a peaceful way, Mr Suthep said, adding the government and more than half of the country's lawmakers acted unlawfully because they rejected the Constitution Court's authority, meaning they did not accept the charter.

"We will establish a people's administration and change the rules so the country can become a real constitutional monarchy," he said.

Last night, he told protesters at the ministry in an address that was broadcast at the Ratchadamnoen rally that he was aware the government aimed to press treason charges against him and that he was ready to fight them.

Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban led a group of protesters to occupy the Finance Ministry's office on Monday. (Photo by Panumas Sanguanwong)

Meanwhile, about 1,000 anti-government protesters from the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand, led by Nititorn Lamlua and Uthai Yodmanee, a group allied with Mr Suthep's rally, broke through the Foreign Ministry's gate and stormed the compound to occupy the ministry about 6.30pm. Mr Uthai said his group will lay siege to the ministry until this government leaves office.

The pro-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship yesterday demanded the government act against what it calls a "revolt" led by Mr Suthep.

"The government must act against wrongdoers who led people to lay seize to state agencies," the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (Capo) said authorities would press charges against Mr Suthep.

Police are gathering evidence and will today file charges against every person involved in the seizures of state premises, Capo spokesman Piya Uthayo said.

Capo is also preparing to reclaim offices seized by protesters to allow the government to function as normal as soon as possible with the Finance and Foreign ministries being the priorities.

Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng yesterday condemned the raids, saying the Democrat-backed demonstration was no longer legitimate. It was apparently aimed at overthrowing democracy which is an illegal act under Section 68 of the constitution.

Videos by Thanarak Khoonton

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