BANGKOK — Anti-government protesters swarmed into the Thai prime minister’s office compound Tuesday as police stood by and watched, allowing them to claim a symbolic victory after three days of bitter clashes. The unexpected reversal in the government’s strategy brings at least a lull in the violence before the revered king’s 86th birthday later this week.
Hundreds of protesters poured onto the lawn of Government House, waving Thai flags and blowing whistles. After speeches and shouts of “victory belongs to the people!” they left the compound an hour later, and the gates were locked again. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was not there at the time.
Declaring that the government would use “only gentleness and tenderness to solve problems,” Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said the step was taken to reduce tensions so people could celebrate King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birthday on Thursday. The king is seen as the sole uniting figure in the country.
The move was widely viewed as offering the protesters a face-saving way to end the demonstrations — although it remains to be seen whether protests will resume in the future.