Thailand sees lull in protests ahead of king's birthday

Anti-government protesters sweep the street around the Democracy Monument after weeks of protesting and days of clashes with police in Bangkok's city centre, 4 December 2013 Protesters are cleaning the streets ahead of the king's 86th birthday

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There has been a lull in protests against Thailand's government ahead of the king's 86th birthday, after days of violent demonstrations in the capital.

However, some anti-government protesters still headed to the police headquarters in Bangkok to rally.

There were violent clashes earlier in the week, but the situation calmed down on Tuesday after security forces stepped back from protesters.

People have been cleaning the streets for the king's birthday on Thursday.

The protests in Bangkok, which started on 24 November, were relatively peaceful, but things took a violent turn over the weekend and on Monday.

Protesters tried to topple police barricades and storm the prime minister's office, Government House. Clashes broke as police used tear gas and water cannons to repel them.

Thailand's troubles

  • Sept 2006: Army overthrows government of Thaksin Shinawatra, rewrites constitution
  • Dec 2007: Pro-Thaksin People Power Party wins most votes in election
  • Aug 2008: Mr Thaksin flees into self-imposed exile before end of corruption trial
  • Dec 2008: Mass yellow-shirt protests paralyse Bangkok; Constitutional Court bans People Power Party; Abhisit Vejjajiva comes to power
  • Mar-May 2010: Thousands of pro-Thaksin red shirts occupy parts of Bangkok; eventually cleared by army; dozens killed
  • July 2011: Yingluck Shinawatra leads Pheu Thai party to general election win
  • Nov 2013: Anti-government protesters begin street demonstrations

But on Tuesday police defused tensions by taking down barriers and razor wire outside their headquarters and allowing protesters inside.

On Wednesday, some protesters, along with government forces, have been cleaning the area around the Democracy Monument, where celebrations for the king's birthday are expected to be held.

One group, however, marched towards the police headquarters for a rally. But officials said they were not worried.

"Their movement today is merely to display their power and show that the protests are still continuing," Paradorn Pattanatabut, head of the National Security Council, told Agence-France Presse news agency.

There have been no reports of violence or tear gas so far, says the BBC's Jonah Fisher in Bangkok. But our correspondent adds that increasingly this feels like a pause and not an ending to the protests.

The protesters want the current government under Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down and be replaced by an unelected "People's Council".

They allege that her government is controlled by her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is in self-imposed exile after he was overthrown in a military army coup in 2006 and convicted of corruption.

At least four people have died since Saturday, in what has been Thailand's worst political turmoil since the 2010 rallies that ended in violence.

But a senior Thai military official appeared optimistic.

"Everyone agreed that the military forces will not take a leading role in this situation and there will be no coup, as we believe the tension is easing and everything will be back to normal soon," navy chief, Admiral Narong Pipathanasai, told media on Wednesday.

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