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May 30, 2017

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Defiant Thai protesters besiege government buildings

BANGKOK -- Thai opposition demonstrators besieged government offices Monday, including a compound that has been used as a temporary headquarters by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in defiance of authorities who have vowed to reclaim key state buildings.

Angry rice farmers surrounded a defense ministry compound in a Bangkok suburb where Yingluck has held meetings over the last few weeks.

Hundreds of farmers breached the perimeter to the complex, but it was not immediately clear if the premier was inside in the building, which was guarded by security forces.

The farmers, who have not been paid for crops pledged into a controversial state subsidy scheme, vowed to stay until they could speak with Yingluck, but said they would not raid the compound.

"We will spend the night here. We will stay until we can talk to the prime minister. But we will not raid the building," farmer's leader Rawee Rungroeng told AFP.

Also on Monday, thousands of demonstrators — among them a hardcore group known as the Student and People Network to Reform Thailand — rallied near Government House.

Some poured buckets of cement onto a sandbag wall in front of a gate to Government House, an AFP photographer said, while others manned tire barricades nearby.

The government is attempting to seize back several official buildings after more than three months of mass rallies seeking to topple Yingluck's administration and curb the political domination of her family.

The prime minister has been unable to use the Government's headquarters in Bangkok's historic heart for about two months, and has instead held meetings in various locations across the capital.

Protesters have taunted her for overseeing a mobile government, which they are hoping to upend — despite a recent general election — through a combination of street action and pressure through Thailand's notoriously interventionist courts.

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