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Thai protesters threaten to seize stock exchange


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By James Hookway

Reuters Enlarge Image
Anti-government protesters shout as they block a road near the labor ministry in Bangkok January 13, 2014.

BANGKOK — After turning central Bangkok into a flag-waving sea of protest Monday, antigovernment activists now say they are preparing to take their campaign to the next level by seizing Thailand’s stock exchange.

The protesters’ drive to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office and eliminate the influence of her brother, billionaire former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, has been marked by a series of escalating protests, each more ambitious than the last. Monday’s rally was touted as a bid to shut down Bangkok for a week or more and reboot Thailand’s democracy, this time without the powerful Shinawatra clan in command. Tens of thousands of people blocked intersections around the inner core of the capital in their latest effort to press Yingluck to resign, placing further strain on the outlook for Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

But with Yingluck claiming widespread support elsewhere in Thailand and planning new elections Feb. 2, protest leaders already are selecting higher-profile targets to attempt to force her out, including the headquarters of the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

“We have to escalate things from time to time,” said Nitithorn Lamlua, who determines much of the protest movement’s strategy. “If Yingluck doesn’t resign by Jan. 15, we have to look at what more we can do.” And that, he said, could mean besieging the stock exchange, which rival pro-Shinawatra protesters tried to burn down in 2010.

Stock Exchange of Thailand President Charamporn Jotikasthira told reporters that the exchange has several backup systems to enable it to continue trading. The benchmark SET Index TH:SET +2.24% , meanwhile, rose more than 2% to close at 1,283.56.

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