Bangkok: At least five persons were killed as a week-long anti-government protests in Thailand on Sunday entered a dangerous phase when demonstrators launched a "people`s coup" on the embattled regime of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, forcing her to flee a secure police compound.
Police hurled tear-gas and water-canons at about 30,000 protesters trying to breach barricades and cut barbed wire protecting Government House, office of the Prime Minister, seeking to oust Yingluck who came to power in 2011.
The Prime Minster was not present at the time. The government denied rumours that she had fled the country but her whereabouts were unknown.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban called for a general strike starting from tomorrow. Other leaders urged protesters to seize 10 government offices, six television stations, police headquarters and the Prime Minister`s offices in what they are calling a "people`s coup".
"Today is an important day. We`ll go to anywhere that is important to the government and we`ll paralyse it from tomorrow onwards because nobody will be able to work tomorrow," Suthep, opposition Democrat Party leader and former deputy Prime Minister, said.
The protesters hurled stones and petrol bombs at police near the metropolitan police headquarters. Their unrelenting campaign entered a volatile phase today that paralysed parts of Bangkok and followed a night of gun and knife battles between pro- and anti-government protesters in which five persons were killed and over 54 wounded.
Deputy Police Commissioner-General Veerapong Chiewpreecha said five persons were killed inside Ramkhamhaeng University in clashes that continued till this morning.
Anti-government protesters swarmed many state agencies and took control of Thai PBS television station. Another group of protesters managed to break through barriers to enter the compound of the Interior Ministry.
The protesters declared Sunday "V-Day" as they upped their ante to topple Yingluck and end her family`s more than decade-long influence over Thai politics. They accuse Yingluck of acting as a proxy for her fugitive brother and former Premier Thaksin Shinwatra who was ousted in a 2006 coup.
National police spokesman Piya Utayo said troops were being sent to a government complex occupied by protesters since Thursday and the Finance Ministry, occupied since Monday. "We have sent forces to these places to take back government property," he said on national television.
More than 2,700 troops are being deployed to reinforce security in Bangkok, the first time a significant number of soldiers have been mobilised to deal with the unrest.
The worst violence broke out yesterday in an area around a Bangkok stadium when students attacked pro-government "Red Shirts" activists gathered there in support of Yingluck, who faced the biggest protests in years.
Police evacuated about 2,000 students trapped inside Ramkhamhaeng University this morning.
After the violent clashes, `Red Shirt` activists end their rally, which had drawn tens of thousands of mostly rural poor supporters of Yingluck and her billionaire brother Thaksin against Bangkok`s urban middle class and royalist elite.
Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan has claimed that four government supporters were among the five victims.
Nearly three tear gas canisters were fired at protesters at Chamai Maruchet Bridge as they were trying to march to Government House.
Satit Wongnongtaey, an anti-government protest leader, announced that protesters were moving to eight destinations, including Channel 3, Channel 5, Channel 7, MCOT and NBT.
Sakoltee called on the Thai PBS broadcast committee to provide a broadcast link to the Government Complex rally site so that the protest leaders could reach statements live.
Protests were sparked by an amnesty bill, since abandoned by the ruling Pheu Thai Party, that could have allowed the return of Thaksin, whose ouster by royalist generals in 2006 unleashed years of political unrest.
The recent turmoil is the biggest since 2010, when thousands of "red-shirt" Thaksin supporters occupied key parts of the capital. More than 90 people, mostly civilian protesters, died over the course of the two-month sit-in.
Thaksin lives in Dubai to avoid a jail term for a corruption conviction. Pro-Thaksin parties have won every election for more than a decade, but Yingluck has ruled out a fresh poll as a way out of the crisis.