Thai anti-govt protesters rally at police HQ; navy chief rules out coup
BANGKOK - Reuters
Anti-government protesters shout as they break down the barriers at the Thai Police Headquarters in Bangkok December 4, 2013. REUTERS photoProtesters in Thailand trying to bring down the government rallied at national police headquarters on Wednesday and their leader said the fight would go on despite efforts to defuse the crisis.
Thailand's military, which has staged or attempted 18 coups in the past 80 years, has kept its distance from the latest turmoil and the navy chief said on Wednesday he and his top armed forces colleagues had ruled out intervening as the situation was returning to normal.
After days of violence, the government took the heat out of the confrontation on the streets on Tuesday, telling police to step aside and let protesters into state agencies they had besieged in their bid to bring down the government.
The demonstrators returned to their Bangkok bases but said the fight was not over.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said there would be a pause on Thursday out of respect for the 86th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is adored by many Thais, not least the anti-government demonstrators.
But the campaign would continue right after that, he said.
"We will start our fight again on December 6. We will start as dawn is breaking and we will fight every day until we get victory," he said in a speech to supporters late on Tuesday.
The protests are the latest eruption of a conflict that pits the Bangkok-based establishment against mostly poorer Thais loyal to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by the military in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile.
Addressing concern that the army might again step in, navy chief Admiral Narong Pipathanasai said he and the heads of the army and air force had met to discuss the situation and they had no intention of intervening.
"Everyone agreed that the military forces will not take a leading role in this situation and there will be no coup as we believe the tension is easing and everything will be back to normal soon," he told reporters after meeting his top military colleagues.