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Bangkok protests quiet ahead of King's birthday

BANGKOK--Protesters in Thailand trying to bring down the government abruptly ended a rally at national police headquarters on Wednesday but their leader said the fight would go on despite efforts by authorities to defuse the crisis.

The military, which has staged or attempted 18 coups in the past 80 years, has kept its distance from the latest turmoil and the navy chief said he and top armed forces colleagues had ruled out intervening as the situation was returning to normal.

After days of violence in which five people were killed, authorities took the heat out of the confrontation on Tuesday, telling police to step aside and let protesters into state agencies they had besieged in a bid to topple the government.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said there would be a pause on Thursday out of respect for the 86th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is adored by many Thais, not least the anti-government demonstrators.

But the campaign would continue right after that, he said.

“We will start our fight again on Dec. 6. We will start as dawn is breaking and we will fight every day until we get victory,” he said in a speech to supporters late on Tuesday.

The protesters made their way into the grounds of the national police headquarters but failed to get past interior barriers and decided shortly after midday to give up the attempt.

Recalling the fraternization at state agencies on Tuesday after exchanges of teargas and petrol bombs the day before, hundreds of female officers replaced riot police at the barricades and waved goodbye to the protesters as both sides chanted “Long live the king!”

Finance Ministry Occupied

Police estimated nearly 3,000 protesters had gathered outside police HQ by mid-morning, a relatively small crowd compared with numbers over the past week or two. The main road in front was closed but upmarket shopping malls in the area were open.

Hundreds of protesters still occupy the Finance Ministry and a big administrative center in the north of the capital but government is carrying on, with Yingluck meeting economic ministers at her office at Government House, which had to be defended with teargas and water cannon this week.

Government spokesman Teerat Ratanasevi told reporters that Yingluck had asked Finance Minister Kittirat na Ranong and economic agencies to draw up measures to boost investment, create jobs and restore confidence.

“They will be announced in the last week of the year or early 2014 as a present for the Thai people,” he said.

The stock market rallied on Tuesday as tension subsided and was steady on Wednesday along with the baht, which traders said was helped by the navy chief's comments.

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Anti-government protesters clean the road around Democracy Monument in Bangkok on Wednesday, Dec. 4. Thailand's anti-government protesters and security forces on Wednesday observed a temporary truce as the nation prepares to mark the birthday of the kingdom's revered monarch.

(AFP)

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