- Bangkok calm amid temporary truce
- Passers-by nab theft suspect at market
- Mastermind of bomb plot confesses
BANGKOK: Protesters and police observed a temporary truce as Thailand prepared to mark the birthday of its revered king, after police had stepped back in a dramatic move to calm violent clashes.
In the day's only significant demonstration, hundreds of protesters descended on the national police headquarters in Bangkok's glitzy downtown shopping district, where police allowed them to cut barbed wire and pull away sections of a concrete barrier. The demonstrators withdrew shortly afterwards.
The prevailing mood was calm in the capital, as demonstrators joined Bangkok authorities to clean up the area around Democracy Monument, where tens of thousands have camped out in more than a month of rallies against the embattled government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The area is a focus for the celebrations today for the 86th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej – a date normally observed in a spirit of calm and reverence.
Some debris has been cleared at battle-scarred areas around key government buildings, which saw ugly clashes with police earlier in the week as demonstrators tried to storm them.
Several days of street battles abruptly paused on Tuesday. Protesters instead handed police flowers after officers said they would no longer use force against demonstrators trying to storm Yingluck's offices as well as the city police headquarters.
The unexpected about-turn followed two days of clashes between stone-throwing mobs and police firing tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets.
Protest leaders say they have not abandoned their campaign to overthrow Yingluck's administration and curb the political influence of her billionaire brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed by royalist generals in a coup seven years ago. They say he still controls the government from exile.
Authorities were not worried about the gathering at the police headquarters, said Paradorn Pattanatabut, head of Thailand's National Security Council.
"Their movement today is merely to display their power and show that the protests are still continuing," he added.
King Bhumibol, the world's longest-serving monarch, is treated as a near-deity by many and any violence on his birthday would be viewed as a serious sign of disrespect.
He has suffered from a range of ailments in recent years. In August, he left the Bangkok hospital where he had lived for several years and moved to his palace in the seaside town of Hua Hin with Queen Sirikit.
At the main rally site yesterday, protesters began to sweep up rubbish in preparation for the royal festivities.
"We're helping to clean up for the king as it is nearly his birthday," said Palita Nutchoei, 37, wielding a broom at Democracy Monument.
But "we will keep protesting because we feel that we haven't won yet", she added.
The long-running political conflict broadly pits a Bangkok-based elite backed by the military and the palace against rural and working-class voters loyal to Thaksin, a billionaire businessman-turned-populist politician.
The demonstrations, aimed at toppling Yingluck's government and replacing it with an unelected "people's council", are the biggest and most violent since dozens of people were killed in a crackdown on mass pro-Thaksin rallies in Bangkok three years ago.
The current rallies were triggered by an amnesty Bill, since abandoned by Yingluck's ruling party, which opponents feared would have allowed Thaksin to return to his home country. He fled in 2008 to avoid jail for a corruption conviction he contends is politically motivated.
Police yesterday raised the death toll in the clashes to five, confirming the remains of a young man were found on a bus set ablaze in a Bangkok suburb over the weekend. — AFP
Alert passers-by foiled a theft when a man allegedly tried to steal a fishmonger's takings.
The 50-year-old stall worker, who gave his name as Ye, had been chopping fish yesterday when the thief was said to have snatched about S$200 (RM513) from a container on the counter at Chong Pang Market.
"He stuffed it into a plastic bag, turned around and ran," Ye told Chinese evening paper Shin Min Daily News.
"That's when I shouted for help."
His plea caught the attention of other tenants and passers-by, who caught the 55-year-old man and restrained him with cable ties.
Police have arrested the man. — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network
JAKARTA: An Indonesian on trial for a foiled plot to bomb the Myanmar embassy confessed to being the mastermind, saying he was "still at war" with anyone oppressing Muslims.
Sigit Indrajid, 23, testified that he led a group of extremists that networked over Facebook in a plan to attack Myanmar's mission in Jakarta in May.
The group wanted to avenge the harsh treatment of Muslim-minority Rohingya in Myanmar – an issue that has resonated widely in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation.
"It was my initiative," he told the South Jakarta district court.
Asked by a judge if he regretted his actions, Sigit responded in a raised voice: "No. This was a warning to Myanmar as well as others who treat Muslims as they please."
"I am still at war – as long as there is oppression of Muslims," he said.
Sigit faces three charges under tough anti-terror laws, including possession of weapons or explosive materials, which carries a maximum penalty of death.
He said he became incensed after reading reports on Facebook about the violence against Rohingya in the Buddhist-majority country, many of whom have died in sectarian unrest since last year.
He got the idea to attack the embassy after being invited by a local Muslim group to take part in a protest against the violence in Myanmar.
He said he met up with an accomplice, Separiano, who has also been charged by the same court over the plot.
"I said to him, 'Let's just bomb (the embassy)'. And he agreed," Sigit told the court.
The attack by the group – part of the network Negara Islam Indonesia (The Islamic State of Indonesia) – was foiled on May 2, the day before it was due to take place, when police arrested two men on a motorbike carrying a backpack full of pipe-bombs.
Prosecutors earlier said Sigit met some of his accomplices on Facebook, where he posted messages about the need to avenge the killing of the Rohingya. — AFP
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