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Protests

Anti-government protests in Thailand spread to state agencies

Anti-government protesters in Thailand have marched on more than a dozen state agencies in protest against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Protesters have also forced their way into several ministry buildings.

Second day of protests in Bangkok

Thai police say about 30,000 protesters marched on more than a dozen state agencies across the capital, Bangkok, on Monday, in an escalating anti-government campaign to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government.

Hundreds of demonstrators, spurred on by former opposition lawmaker Suthep Thaugsuban, also stormed the compounds of the Finance Ministry and Foreign Ministry.

Addressing the crowd through a loudspeaker, Suthep said, "Tomorrow we will seize all ministries to show to the Thaksin system that they have no legitimacy to run the country."

Monday's rally comes one day after about 100,000 peaceful anti- and pro-government demonstrators marched in Bangkok, the largest rally Thailand has seen in three years.

Organizers estimated that by Sunday evening the crowd had grown closer to 400,000 people, many of whom came from the south, where the opposition Democratic Party enjoys strong support.

Long power struggle

Protesters say they want Yingluck to step down amid claims that her government is controlled by her brother, ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

Supporters and opponents of Thaksin have been in a power struggle ever since he was forced out in a 2006 military coup amid accusations of corruption and disrespect for Thailand's constitutional monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thaksin has lived in a self-imposed exile the past five years to avoid a prison sentence for a corruption conviction.

Yingluck's Pheu Thai administration was democratically elected two years ago after a bloody military crackdown on mass Red Shirt protests in 2010 that killed scores of people. However, her detractors accuse her of using her power to further the interest of Thaksin and his associates, a claim she denies.

The latest round of protests was triggered last month by a government-backed bill granting amnesty to Thaksin. Observers have warned the protests, which forced the government to temporarily abandon the amnesty bill, could lead to renewed violence between the two sides.

Thailand has seen 18 coups since it shifted from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

hc/tj (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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