Air traffic threatened as Thai “shutdown” begins

Opposition protesters block traffic on streets of Bangkok

Thai opposition protesters in their tens of thousands have blocked traffic on major streets in central Bangkok today to try to shut down the city and force the resignation of the prime minister.

Wearing t-shirts with slogans such as “Bangkok Shutdown” and “Thai Uprising 2014”, the demonstrators have massed at key intersections.

Hardline protesters have threatened to storm Thailand’s air traffic control and besiege the stock exchange if Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra does not step down this week.

The government has not tried to stop the demonstrators taking over parts of the city, and the military sympathises with the anti-government demonstrations. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban says he will pull back if the protests descend into “civil war”. Local residents fear for their livelihood, especially if tourists choose to stay away during the peak season.

Eight people have so far been killed since this wave of protests began two months ago. Violence in 2010 led to the deaths of more than 90 people.

Many people are using public transport today instead of cars, while panic buying has been reported in some areas. The US Embassy is advising that people stockpile a two-week supply of food, water and medicine.

AFP

[pictured: Protests in 2008; photo by Mark Micallef]

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