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Thai police confront protesters in push to seize Bangkok demonstration sites

By Kocha Olarn and Tim Hume, CNN
updated 3:02 AM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
Thai security forces prepare for confrontation at a protest site near a government complex in Bangkok.
Thai security forces prepare for confrontation at a protest site near a government complex in Bangkok.
  • Thai police and protesters faced off Friday as authorities tried to clear protest sites
  • Parts of Bangkok have been occupied since November
  • Authorities regained some of the area held by protesters near Government House
  • They vowed to return tomorrow to try again

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- Thousands of Thai riot police faced off against anti-government demonstrators in Bangkok Friday as they attempted to seize sites occupied by protesters for months.

Security forces only succeeded in narrowing the areas held by protesters in some parts of the city, but vowed to return to continue their efforts Saturday. The stand-offs passed without serious violence, although a journalist sustained minor injuries when a protester near Government House threw a firecracker.

Demonstrators opposed to the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra have been camped out since November at sites including Government House -- the office of the prime minister and appointed cabinet ministers -- and the government complex in the Chaengwattana area of Bangkok's suburbs.

But Lt. Gen. Paradon Patthanathabut, Thailand's national security chief, told CNN that enough was enough.

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"Public sentiment now is 'That's enough.' It has gone beyond peaceful protest," he said.

The protesters' actions were blocking public access to government services, making intervention by authorities necessary, he said.

"We are going to enforce the law against protesters in certain areas."

While security forces succeeded in seizing only some of the territory held by protesters, he said they would be back tomorrow.

"We have withdrawn our forces and will go back there again tomorrow," said Paradon. "We were there to express our seriousness that we have to retake the area, (or) at least open up the roads for public."

He said he did not expect events to turn violent, saying his approach was to attempt negotiations before sending in teams to retake the area.

READ MORE: After disrupting Thailand elections, protesters vow to continue

Protesters have been calling for the ouster of Yingluck, whom they allege is a puppet of her billionaire brother, the deposed, exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The protests were sparked in November by her government's attempt to pass an amnesty bill, that would have paved the way for her brother's return to the political fray in earnest.

Yingluck called general elections on February 2 in an attempt to bring an end to the crisis. But the opposition Democrat Party boycotted the polls and protesters blocked officials from gathering ballots and obstructed voter registration in many constituencies.

Thailand's Constitutional Court ruled this week that there were insufficient grounds to consider a petition filed by lawyer Wiratana Kalayasiri, a former MP for the Democrat Party, seeking the annulment of the elections.

READ MORE: Trapped in a gunfight -- CNN producer's harrowing account of Thai election violence

READ MORE: Thai elections -- the politics of crisis

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