Thailand’s interior ministry was stormed by protesters – just a day after a summit of Asian leaders was brought to a halt in similar scenes.
Troops fired at least four shots in the air as about 50 protesters broke through security at the ministry in Bangkok.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit was in the building, but managed to escape by car.
Bands of anti-government protesters roamed areas of Bangkok as the emergency decree was announced, with some smashing a car they believed was carrying Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and others beating up motorists who hurled insults at them.
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The emergency decree bans gatherings of more than five people, forbids news reports considered threatening to public order and allows the government to call up military troops to quell unrest.
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But there were initial signs that the government might not be able to contain the protesters.
Reporters saw red-shirted demonstrators swarm over two of three armored personnel carriers outside a shopping mall in downtown Bangkok, while police stood by as a furious crowd beat a car in which they thought Abhisit was riding with poles, rocks and even flower pots.
‘It’s apparent that we will be surrounded and suppressed by military force. Tear gas and military personnel have been prepared. So we told our people to be ready and be prepared,’ said Jakrapop Penkair, a key protest leader.
‘If they use force, the people will be our weapon. We are not scared. Abhisit must be ousted immediately.’