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Thai Ministries Occupied by Mass Protests

Thousands take to the streets in Bangkok after proposed law raises tensions about exiled leader Thaksin Shinawatra.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 11/26/2013, 10:01 PM

Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand
CC/Sam Ruaat

Thailand has witnessed massive protests in the last several days that have left many government ministries closed. The popular movement has been stirred by an amnesty law which, despite failing to pass the Senate earlier this month, succeeding in raising tensions in the divided country.

If passed the law would have allowed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return to Thailand without facing a jail sentence for corruption. Billionaire Thaksin has been in exile since being deposed in a 2006 coup amid popular outcry over his alleged widespread corruption. In 2010 Thailand was rocked by clashes which left 90 dead as Thaksin supporters demanded his return.

The latest tensions come as protesters feel that Thaksin is still pulling the strings in Thailand through his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, the current Prime Minister. While she has denied the charges, BBC notes that ministers and officials continuously travel to consult with the deposed leader in Dubai, Hong Kong, or wherever he happens to be.

On Sunday 100,000 protesters gathered in Bangkok, and the next day NBC reports 30,000 demonstrators marched throughout the city.

The protesters took over the finance ministry, foreign ministry and public relations department on Monday, spurring Shinawatra to invoke special security powers. That day Shinawatra said "our National Security service is now monitoring the protest and we are trying to handle the protesters without any violence."

On Tuesday protesters surrounded the interior, tourism, transport and agriculture ministries as well.

The Bangkok Post reports that 23 countries have issued special travel advice urging caution to travelers in Thailand.

Thailand has long been a favorite tourism destination for Israelis due to the famed hospitality of the "land of smiles," and the cheap prices in the country.

While the two countries have enjoyed good ties, and Thailand earlier this year showed interest in Israeli security solutions, Thailand recognized a "Palestinian state" in 2012.