BANGKOK – A Thai court has ordered the government not to use force to crack down on protesters who are seeking the prime minister’s resignation.
The Civil Court ruled Wednesday that the prime minister and a special security command center cannot issue any orders under an emergency decree that would violate the protesters’ rights.
The Cabinet declared a state of emergency in the Bangkok area on Jan. 21 after the protesters threatened to shut down the capital by blocking key intersections and occupying government offices.
The court cited another court’s earlier ruling that said the protests were peaceful.
It was unclear whether Wednesday’s ruling would affect arrest warrants issued for protest leaders for violating the state of emergency.
Meanwhile, thousands of Thai anti-government protesters surrounded the prime minister’s temporary office in Bangkok’s northern outskirts to demand her resignation Wednesday, a day after clashes with riot police left at least five people dead.
The demonstrators asked officials at the Defense Ministry complex to prevent Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from using it as her backup office. She has been unable to enter her regular office compound in downtown Bangkok because it has been blocked by protesters and some of its gates have been cemented shut.
The demonstrators also vowed to target businesses owned by Yingluck’s wealthy family.
“Wherever she is, wherever she sleeps, we will go after her,” protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told the crowd. “(We) must intensify our fight and we will attack Shinawatra businesses and their funding sources.”
Protesters have also camped out for a month at major intersections across the capital to press for Yingluck’s resignation.
The military said the prime minister and Cabinet ministers stayed away from their temporary offices on Wednesday to prevent further tensions.
Yingluck’s elected government has been attempting to avoid violence to keep the powerful military from stepping in. Thailand has been wracked by political unrest since 2006, when Yingluck’s brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted by a military coup after being accused of corruption and abuse of power.
Police have been ordered to exercise restraint and avoid using force, but deadly gunbattles erupted Tuesday after they moved into several locations around the city to remove protesters.
Erawan emergency medical services said a fifth person died of injuries from Tuesday’s fighting. Nearly 70 others were injured.
The demonstrators, who mostly draw their support from the urban middle and upper class and people in the south, want Yingluck to step down to make way for an appointed interim government to implement reforms they say are necessary to fight corruption and remove the Shinawatra family from politics.