Anti-government protesters demanding the resignation of Premier Yingluck Shinawatra and security forces in Thailand today observed an uneasy truce on the eve of the revered monarch's 86th birthday.
Hundreds of protesters descended on the national police headquarters here after they were allowed by authorities to cut barbed wire and remove sections of a barrier. The protesters left the venue after a peaceful rally.
The political confrontation was put on pause as a mark of respect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose birthday will be celebrated tomorrow. However, tensions are running high as protesters have vowed to continue their fight after the celebrations end.
The protesters accuse Yingluck of being a proxy for her elder brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006 by the military and is in self-exile in Dubai. The rallies were triggered by an amnesty bill, since abandoned by Yingluck's party, which the opposition claimed would have allowed Thaksin to return.
Shinawatra, meanwhile, returned to her office today after five days. She held meetings with her Cabinet colleagues and other senior government officials, Thai media reported. After days of violence, protesters were allowed to stage a demonstration inside government headquarters yesterday but the main opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban said the campaign would continue. He said there would be a pause in protests tomorrow out of respect for King.
Suthep also said he wants to invoke Section 7 of the Thai Constitution, which would lead to the installation of a royally-appointed prime minister, Nation newspaper said today. His controversial idea of people's council has already taken heavy flak from the government, which has called it unconstitutional.
In a televised statement yesterday, Yingluck asked all Thais to unite to show their love for the King.
Yingluck said disagreements continued but she wanted to see all Thais, including the protesters, begin talks to try to provide real solutions. "I would like to invite all Thais including academics, businessmen, protesters, and experts from all sectors to join the open forum to find solutions for political reform," she said.
Referring to yesterday's events, she said police guarding two key strongholds - Government House and the Metropolitan Police Bureau - simply stopped their resistance against protesters attempting to breach barricades.
King Bhumibol, the world's longest-serving monarch, is a constitutional monarch with no formal political role, but he is seen as a unifying figure for Thais. Violence linked to political crisis has killed at least five people and injured nearly 277 since the weekend.