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Thai protesters occupy military HQ and ask the army to 'choose sides'

Thai protesters occupy military HQ and ask the army to 'choose sides'
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A large crowd of anti-government demonstrators in Bangkok has occupied the grounds of the Thai army headquarters challenging the military to declare its allegiance.

One protest leader called on the head of the armed forces to choose whether to stand by the government or with the people.

Some scaled the wrought-iron front gates to get into the compound. Once the gates were opened, hundreds of others swarmed inside.

Although they all later left and the protest was peaceful, it is seen as deeply symbolic in a country where the military’s role has often been pivotal.

Hundreds of soldiers watched the protest from balconies while others stood guard.

The army, which has remained neutral in the latest wave of protests, has called on all sides to solve the problem in the country’s best interests.

The conflict has seen the urban middle class challenge the authority of the Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose support comes largely from the rural poor.

Protesters have rejected the prime minister’s repeated calls for dialogue.

They accuse her of pushing through laws that strengthen the power of her self-exiled billionaire brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister who was ousted from power in a 2006 military coup and who remains central to Thailand’s political turmoil.