DFA raises Alert Level 1 in Thailand

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 14 2014 07:46 PM | Updated as of Jan 15 2014 03:46 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs has raised Alert Level 1 in Thailand due to the massive anti-government protests there.

Under Alert Level 1, all Filipinos in Thailand are advised to exercise vigilance and take necessary precautions.

Reuters reported that protesters trying to topple Thailand's government moved to tighten the blockade around ministries on Tuesday. A hardline faction threatened to storm the stock exchange, while major intersections in the capital Bangkok remained blocked.

The turmoil is the latest chapter in an eight-year conflict pitting the Bangkok-based middle class and royalist establishment against the mostly poorer, rural supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a former premier ousted by the military in 2006.

Although the capital was calm and the mood among the tens of thousands of protesters remained festive, analysts said the scope for a peaceful resolution of the crisis was narrowing.

"As anti-government protesters intensify actions, the risk of violence across wide swathes of the country is growing and significant," an International Crisis Group (ICG) report said.

Ministries and the central bank have been forced to operate from back-up offices after protesters led by Suthep Thaugsuban stopped civil servants getting to work.

"In the next two or three days we must close every government office," Suthep told a large crowd of supporters.

"If we cannot, we will detain the prime minister and other ministers. We will start by cutting water and electricity and their homes. I suggest they evacuate their children."

Groups of demonstrators marched peacefully from their seven big protest camps to ministries, the customs office, the planning agency and other state bodies on Tuesday, aiming to paralyse the workings of government.

A student group allied to Suthep's People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has threatened to attack the stock exchange, with faction leader Nitithorn Lamlua telling supporters on Monday it represented "a wicked capitalist system that provided the path for Thaksin to become a billionaire".

A PDRC spokesman said the bourse was not one its targets.

"We will not lay siege to places that provide services for the general public, including airports, the stock exchange and trains. However, we will block government offices to stop them from functioning," Akanat Promphan told supporters at a rally.

Jarumporn Chotikasathien, president of the Stock Exchange of Thailand, told Reuters emergency measures had been prepared to secure the premises and trading systems. Trading was normal during the morning, with the index slightly down at the midday break.

There was no special security visible at the exchange. A Reuters photographer said one group of protesters marched past on their way to the customs department but did not stop. - With Reuters