Thai police backed off in face of an defiant protester crowd on Friday after a see-saw battle with anti-government protesters to gain control of the government seat in central Bangkok.
Deputy police spokesman Surapol Thuanthong conceded that the police had to withdraw from the protest rally sites they earlier regained control from the hands of protesters at the Makkawan Bridge and other major accesses to the Government House, where thousands of protesters led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has occupied since Tuesday.
The police also withdrew from the Government House compound, which they broke protesters' barricades to get in to execute a Civil Court order to demand the immediate removal of the occupiers, and let the PAD people continue their rally there.
The back-off happened after thousands of PAD supporters were geared to regain control of their rally sites around the Government House.
One PAD core leader, Sondhi Limthongkul told their supporters on the stage set up inside the compound that the PAD demanded the police hand over policemen who were seen beating PAD protesters with batons at rally sites to the PAD by 7:00 p.m. (1200 GMT), or the group would launch two collaborated mass demonstration of 100,000 people at the Bangkok Metropolian Police Bureau and the National Police Bureau headquarters.
He also called on more people to join in the PAD's rally on this "judgment day" to press the government to step down.
On early Friday afternoon, reinforced police forces cleared barricades of anti-government protesters and got control of all main accesses to the Government House compound, where the protesters continued their rally to demand the step-down of the government led by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.
Clashes between protesters and police occurred on Friday morning at the major PAD rally site -- the Makkawan Bridge near the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia an the Pacific (UNESCAP) headquarters, some 200 meters away from one gate of the Government House.
Some protesters were injured and some seen armed with golf clubs and sticks, when they clashed with riot police with batons and shields, according to footages from both state TV and the PAD-sponsored ASTV station.
Police seized the central PAD stage at the Bridge, which has served the main rally venue for the PAD supporters since May 25 when they launched the continuous protests in an attempt to topple the Samak government.
Initial reports by local media said that riot police fired teargas at protesters around Friday noon when trying to breaking through the barricades set up by protesters to block a gate of the Government House.
Deputy police spokesman Surapol maintained that police were not dispersing the protesters by force and dismissed initial reports that police threw teargas on protesters.
Surapol said that the police broke into the Government House to impose an injunction of the Civil Court, which ordered that PAD protesters to move out of the Government House compound.
But the PAD remained defiant and urged the supporters to carry on the rally inside the compound, which thousands of its supporters intruded and seized on Tuesday afternoon.