The Nation



Civil servants plead for an end to siege at govt offices

Say their work is being disrupted and they cannot provide public services effectively

OFFICIALS AT SOME government agencies occupied by anti-government protesters yesterday pleaded for an end to the siege, saying it had disrupted their work for several days.

The protesters have been camping out at the Finance Ministry since November 25 and the Government Complex since November 27. A number of universities and schools in Bangkok also remain closed as the protests continue.

The Government Complex in Nonthaburi is home to more than 30 agencies, including the National Disaster Warning Centre. Since the siege began, officials have been trying to work from other locations, but have learned that they are not able to serve the public effectively.

"It is difficult to communicate to the public about disasters," the centre's director Somsak Khaosuwan said yesterday.

Finance permanent secretary Rangsan Sriworasart said his ministry's job in relation to budget disbursement and tax collection was necessary in all sectors of the government. Since the occupation, despite data backup, it has been less than 100 per cent efficient in disbursing funds and compensation to the general public. Hence, he said, the protesters should end the occupation soon.

He also expressed concern about the long-term impact from prolonged and violent protests, fearing that Thailand's credit rating would be downgraded. He added that agencies had already warned that an eventual downgrade would increase the borrowing costs for the public and private sectors as well as make the country less attractive to foreign investors.

Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang said his ministry's services had also been also been disrupted to an extent.

"We are still working, but there are some impacts. Officials can't go to their offices," he said.

The ministry is located near Government House, where a number of anti-government protesters have been gathering over the past several days.

Separately, at least six schools near protest sites will remain closed today. Several universities in Bangkok, such as Thammasat and Chulalongkorn, have also suspended their lessons until today.

Many Thammasat students have voiced their opposition to rector Somkid Lertpaitoon's decision to suspend classes and are questioning his knowledge of democracy.

Meanwhile, Prince of Songkla University has suspended classes at all five of its campuses from today to December 10 in the wake of the Bangkok unrest, which saw at least three people dead and many injured.

"The mid-term and final exams will be rescheduled," its announcement said.

In Surat Thani, a number of senior-secondary students gathered in front of the City Hall to express their stance against the government. The hall was only partially open.

While anti-government demonstrators yesterday managed to enter the Government House and Metropolitan Police Bureau compounds, they vacated the areas quickly.

Meanwhile, the Office of National Buddhism sent food and water to resident monks at Wat Benjamabophit, as they have not been able to collect morning alms for several days.

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