Thai protesters surround cabinet meeting venue

by Reuters
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 05:08 GMT

BANGKOK, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Around 500 anti-government protesters on Tuesday gathered outside the Army Club compound in the Thai capital, where Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra held a weekly cabinet meeting, as the two sides traded threats in a lengthy political crisis.

The government has issued an ultimatum to protest leaders that they face arrest by Thursday if they do not give up areas they have taken over in Bangkok as protests drag into their third month.

"The people want to talk to the prime minister because she says she is the people's prime minister ... but we want the premier to listen to us ... to our side of the story," a protest leader, Puttipong Punnakun, said.

There were no reports of any violence nor any sign of security forces trying to disperse the protests.

The government declared a state of emergency last week that in theory give it sweeping powers but which it has so far shown no sign of implementing.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has said his supporters would shut down the government body overseeing the emergency decree within 24 hours.

Ten people have so far died, most recently on Sunday, when a protest leader was shot, and there are fears violence could escalate in the latest flare-up of an increasingly divisive dispute that started eight years ago.

Yingluck is Thailand's fifth prime minister since her brother Thaksin Shinawatra was toppled by the military in 2006 and went into exile.

Yingluck will meet members of the Election Commission later on Tuesday to discuss her plans for a national election on Feb. 2. The commission wants a month-long delay, saying the country is too unstable to successfully hold an election.

Though Yingluck's party would almost certainly win the vote, there will not be enough MPs elected to form a quorum in parliament and pick a new government. (Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre Writing by Jonathan Thatcher; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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