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Thai protest leader meets prime minister after street clashes

BANGKOK — The leader of Thailand's antigovernment protests said unexpectedly that he had met with the prime minister Sunday after daylong clashes between his supporters and police but defiantly told her he would accept nothing less than having her elected government step down to be replaced by an appointed council.

Suthep Thaugsuban said the meeting with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was held under the auspices of the military, which says it is neutral in the conflict.

Police throughout the day fought off mobs of rock-throwing protesters who tried to battle their way into the government's heavily-fortified headquarters and other offices. Mobs also besieged several television stations, demanding they broadcast the protesters' views and not the government's. Several of the capital's biggest shopping malls closed in the heart of the city due to the unrest.

Protesters are seeking to eradicate the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire tycoon.

Thaksin, Yingluck's older brother, was ousted by a 2006 military coup and fled the country to avoid a two-year prison term on a corruption conviction. Protesters accuse Yingluck, who took office in 2011, of being a puppet controlled by her brother.

The protests have renewed fears of prolonged instability in one of Southeast Asia's biggest economies. Sunday marked the first time police have used force since demonstrations began in earnest a week ago — a risky strategy that many fear could trigger more bloodshed.

At least three people were killed and 103 injured in skirmishes over the weekend, according to police and the state's emergency medical services.

The protesters had dubbed Sunday "victory day" but failed to attain their main stated goal of taking over the prime minister's offices, despite engaging in pitched street battles. Yingluck's government has gone to painstaking lengths to avoid using deadly force.

An antigovernment protester is helped after being injured when riot police fired tear gas Sunday in Bangkok, Thailand.

Getty Images

An antigovernment protester is helped after being injured when riot police fired tear gas Sunday in Bangkok, Thailand.

Thai protest leader meets prime minister after street clashes 12/01/13 [Last modified: Monday, December 2, 2013 1:03am]
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