13 Jan 2014

Thai protesters block roads in Bangkok

10:24 pm on 13 January 2014

Anti-government protesters in Thailand succeeded in blocking the major intersections in the centre of Bangkok on Monday, stepping up pressure on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign.

Anti-government protesters in Bangkok.

Anti-government protesters in Bangkok. Photo: AFP

The politically turbulent country has been shaken by weeks of opposition rallies against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, prompting the government to call snap elections on 2 February, the ABC reports.

The protesters were loud but peaceful and have occupied major roads in the centre of the capital as part of what they dubbed "Operation Shut-down", demanding that the leader step down and that a "people's council" be installed to pave the way to a reformed democracy.

They fanned out to seven locations across the city. "We hope everything will change in a good way. The change we want to see is for this government to stop being corrupt or they should resign," Komol, a protester at the site who gave only one name, said.

The government stands ready to impose a state of emergency if the crowds turn violent. Supporters of the government are said to outnumber the crowds in Bangkok. Known as the Red Shirts, they have so far stayed away from the rally sites, but won't tolerate the removal of a democratically elected government.

It is the latest chapter in a saga of political instability and occasional unrest that has gripped Thailand since Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted from power by royalist generals seven years ago.

The billionaire tycoon-turned-politician, who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, has large electoral support particularly in his northern Thai heartlands where he is adored for a swathe of popular policies implemented by his and subsequent allied governments.

However, he is detested among the country's elites and by many in the Bangkok middle class and Thai south, who see him as authoritarian and accuse him of buying votes.