Thai police lob tear gas to disperse anti-govt protesters

Thai police lob tear gas to disperse anti-govt protesters

Thai police lob tear gas to disperse anti-govt protesters

Thai police lobbed tear gas to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters who pushed through barriers and clashed with security forces on Saturday as thousands gathered seeking to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government.

The royalist Pitak Siam group, led by retired military general Boonlert Kaewprasit, accuses Yingluck's government of corruption and being a puppet of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother.

It has attracted the support of yellow-shirted members of the People's Alliance for Democracy who helped destabilize and topple governments led or backed by Thaksin in 2006 and 2008.

Thaksin remains a deeply divisive figure in Thailand. He was ousted in a 2006 military-backed coup and fled the country in 2008 shortly before being found guilty of abuse of power.

"If I can't overthrow this government, I am prepared to die," Boonlert told supporters in Thai. In English, he said: "The world will see this corrupted and cruel government. The world can see the government under a puppet."

At least seven police were wounded and up to 132 protesters arrested in a clash near the U.N. Asia-Pacific headquarters, a stone's throw away from the main rally site.

Authorities have deployed 17,000 police at the rally site and the government has invoked the Internal Security Act allowing police to detain protesters and carry out security checks and set up roadblocks.

Police say they have seized various weapons, including knives and bullets, from among the 9,000 gathered at the site.

"We used tear gas because protesters were blocking police and did not comply with the security measures we put in place," police spokesman Piya Uthaya told a local TV station.