Beleaguered Thai govt issues ultimatum to protesters

Bangkok: Thailand’s beleaguered government on Monday issued an ultimatum to opposition activists to halt their siege of ministries within 72 hours or face arrest, but defiant protesters said they would keep up their campaign to oust premier Yingluck Shinawatra.

The Director of the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CPMO), Chalerm Yoobamrung, said he would deploy assault units to arrest protesters for violating an emergency decree and for illegal intrusion into government offices.

“The siege of government installations must end. In 72 hours from now, units of raiders will be dispatched to round up the protesters. This is not a threat, but a warning 72 hours in advance,” said Chalerm, also the caretaker Labour Minister.

“If they are still defiant, I will exercise my power under the emergency decree to arrest them,” he said, referring to the 60-day emergency imposed by the government last week in Bangkok and some surrounding areas.

Chalerm said the CMPO would not seek help from the army to launch the crackdowns.

Unfazed by the warnings, protesters said they will press ahead with their shutdown of Bangkok as they blockaded seven major intersections in the capital and forced many ministries and other government buildings like the central bank to shut down.

The government today asked protesters to discuss ways to free up access to crucial offices. But the offer was refused by Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

“Protesters at all PDRC rally sites will definitely not negotiate. Don’t waste your time contacting us because we won’t talk with you. We will continue to protest so that government officials no longer serve as a tool for the Thaksin regime to do harm to the country,” Suthep said.

Suthep, for whom an arrest warrant was sought along with 15 other leading members of the PDRC, called on Chalerm to abolish the CPMO, arguing that it has no legitimacy.

“We give the CMPO one day. If by tomorrow CMPO is still located at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, we will move to surround the centre to prevent it from further intimidating the people,” he said.