Thai protesters break into Parliament

Posted on 7 April 2010

BANGKOK – Emboldened anti-government protesters briefly stormed Thailand’s Parliament building Wednesday as lawmakers scaled walls to flee and a Black Hawk helicopter evacuated VIPs trapped by the encircling crowd, officials said.

“Red Shirt” protesters led by one of their hardcore leaders smashed through the Parliament compound gate with a truck and rushed to the second floor while Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and other lawmakers were still inside.

But the protesters, who had prompted lawmakers to abort their session, withdrew from the building at the request of opposition lawmakers.

The government security agency, known as CAPO, sent a helicopter to retrieve trapped lawmakers. INN television said Suthep was among those evacuated.

“Five soldiers armed with M16s landed on the Parliament’s helipad and picked up ministers and lawmakers trapped inside,” the agency said in a statement.

Red Shirts have been camped in Bangkok since March 12 and say they will continue protests until Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolves Parliament and calls new elections.

The Red Shirts virtually had the run of the city after Tuesday, when police and army troops made little effort to block them from triumphant, motorized rallies through central Bangkok.

Abhisit has been under pressure to use force to restore order. But on Tuesday, he defended his government’s gentle approach against rowdy demonstrators who blocked major roads and pushed through lines of soldiers.

Abhisit said in a brief TV address that the government “eased our security measures to ensure that no confrontation would spiral out of control” and said the situation required “careful maneuvering.”

Many Thai columnists and editorials on Wednesday questioned whether Abhisit was losing the weeks-old confrontation with the protesters and the crucial backing of the military and police. At least four former prime ministers planned to step into the fray in an attempt to negotiate an end to the crisis, state media reports said.

“If I were the prime minister, I would have got rid of those who would not carry out my orders,” said a former head of the National Security Council, Prasong Soonsiri. He said there was strong support for the Red Shirts within the civil service and law enforcement agencies.

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