Anti-government "Bangkok shutdown" kicks off

Photo: Anti-government "Bangkok shutdown" kicks off / Other News

Major intersections were blocked in Thailand's capital Monday as anti-government protesters kicked off their "Bangkok shutdown" campaign to force the government out, dpa reported.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban launched the demonstration to paralyze the capital at 9 am (0200 GMT), heading a march of tens of thousands of people from their base at Democracy Monument in western Bangkok to seven selected intersections in the city.

Suthep, who heads the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), has been leading mass street protests in Bangkok since November to force caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her cabinet to resign to make way for an appointee government.

The shutdown aims to occupy major intersections in the capital, which were already blocked by Monday morning.

The seven spots will be transformed into permanent protest sites for the PDRC which plans to launch daily marches on government offices and ministers' homes, said PDRC spokesman Akanant Promphan.

"The Bangkok shutdown will end when Yingluck and her ministers resign," Akanat said. "If people feel inconvenienced by the protest they should come and join us in getting this government out."

Although the PDRC has vowed not to close Bangkok's airports, skytrain and subways services, the occupation of the road junctions will put strain on the public transport system and inconvenience some 4 million private car owners, as well as thousands of taxi drivers.

"We have had to alter 137 bus routes to avoid the seven intersections," said Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) director Naret Boonplium.

The BMTA operates 2,700 buses in the capital, and private companies operate another 2,700, transporting an estimated 3 million passengers per day.

Traffic was sparce on Bangkok's main roads Monday morning, and the Bangkok Transit System (BTS) which operates the overhead skytrain, was less crowded than usual as many people apparently opted to stay home for the shutdown.

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