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Thai government lifts barricades to ease tensions with protesters

Thai officials have allowed opposition protesters through barricades outside the government and metropolitan police headquarters. Officials have said the move was made to avoid futher violence and confrontation.

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Thai police back down

Hundreds of anti-government protesters crossed fortified barriers on Tuesday, reaching the gates of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's office and the city police headquarters with no resistance from security forces.

"The protesters said they want to seize government buildings, but the government doesn't want to see any fighting or confrontation so we've ordered the police to back off," spokesman Teerat Ratanasevi told reporters.

"We want to avoid violence and confrontation."

Hundreds of protesters swarmed into the compound, shaking hands with riot police and taking photos of themselves with the security officials.

The cooling-off of hostilities comes after a weekend of violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters that left several dead and dozens more injured.

On Monday, police repelled protesters from the barricades by firing tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets, as demonstrators shot back homemade explosives and rocks.

Arrest warrant for leader

Following a defiant weekend address, an arrest warrant was issued for protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who quit his position in the opposition Democrat Party to lead public demonstrations against Thailand's government.

Suthep has called on people to join public protests and set a deadline of Tuesday for Yingluck to resign.

Yingluck told a news conference that she would "open every door" in search of a peaceful solution to the unrest. However, she also said the opposition's demands to dissolve the government and appoint an unelected council "are impossible to meet under the framework of the constitution.

Protesters accuse Yingluck of being a puppet of her older brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. She survived a no-confidence motion comparatively comfortably last week, owing to her Pheu Thai party's parliamentary majority.

Thaksin, ousted in a 2006 coup, is currently in self-imposed exile in Dubai, facing a 2008 jail sentence on corruption charges handed down in absentia. He dismisses the allegations as politically motivated and is still considered a key figure for the Pheu Thai party, which has not lost an election in Thailand in over a decade.

Tensions began to flare early in November, when the government tried and failed to pass legislation that would have exonerated former premier Thaksin.

hc/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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