By Warangkana Chomchuen and Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol
BANGKOK--Thai protesters surrounded Government House on Monday in an attempt to keep Prime Minister Yingluck
Shinawatra out of her main offices, while new economic data underscored the continuing political turmoil's damage to
Southeast Asia's second-largest economy.
"Yingluck Shinawatra will not have a chance to return to work at Government House, in this life or next," protest
leader Suthep Thaugsuban, told supporters, who set up concrete barriers in front of some of the gates, sealing them with
cement to try to prevent entry into the compound in the city's historic quarter.
Thailand's gross domestic product grew 0.6% year-to-year in the fourth quarter, according to data released Monday.
It was a sharp drop from the third quarter's 2.7% growth, although the economy expanded more than the 0.2% growth
forecast by economists in an earlier Wall Street Journal poll.
The economy grew 2.9% for all of 2013, plunging from 6.5% in 2012, the National Economic and Social Development
Board, the government's economic planning agency, reported Monday.
"Overall, the domestic economy still remains a matter of big concern," said Rahul Bajoria, regional economist at
Barclay's. "At this point, there is no end--it's hard to say when the political uncertainty will disappear, which can
have a negative impact [on the local economy]."
The economic agency said the protests will limit growth in the first half of this year, but forecast full-year GDP
to tick back up to 3% to 4% as reviving Western demand boosts exports. The figure also assumed the tourism industry,
which grew at a record 20% last year, continued to weather the political turmoil.
The political unrest has dented consumer confidence and affected spending, according to the agency. Private
consumption contracted 4.5% in the fourth quarter, a level not seen since the Asian financial crisis in 1997, economist
Last week, police began reclaiming key governmental buildings from protesters, whose goal is to topple Ms. Yingluck
and rid the country of the influence of her elder brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister now living in
exile after he was ousted in a 2006 military coup.
On Friday, hundreds of police were able to briefly retake Government House in a first major pushback against the
demonstrators after the compound had been sealed off by protest blockades in December. But the police had to retreat and
abandon the compound a few hours later when the protesters returned.
Chalerm Yubamrung, chief of the government's special security center, said Monday the police will launch another
operation to reclaim government buildings from the protesters' occupation on Tuesday.
So far, protesters have succeeded in prompting Ms. Yingluck to dissolve Parliament and call snap elections, which
protesters partly disrupted. But it is unclear whether they will bring about the end of governance by Ms. Yingluck.
"We're looking at symbolic movement on a daily basis without any major political significance," said Boonyakiat
Karavekphan, a political scientist at Ramkhamhaeng University. "The government will stand firm in its call to resolve
political conflicts through elections, while the protesters will continue its street campaign to pressure Yingluck out."
Ms. Yingluck governs now in a caretaker capacity, without any power to make major decisions regarding budget
planning and other issues. In the past weeks, her administration has struggled to secure loans from commercial banks to
pay rice farmers who have demanded payment for the paddy they sold to the state rice subsidy program.
On Monday, rice farmers, key voters of Ms. Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party, surrounded a military facility, her
temporary office, to demand their overdue payment for the rice they sold to the government at above market rate, adding
pressure on her.
The government is struggling to restore services, such as the issuance of passports, and clear areas occupied by
the protesters, who have been shrinking in number to about 6,000 on Monday, according to police estimates.
Over the weekend, the police failed to convince the protesters to open access to a complex of state offices in the
capital's northern suburb. Government services offered at the complex, including consular and immigration, have been
relocated and offered via contingent offices due to the protest blockade.
The timing of when a new government will be formed remains unclear. Voting in 11% of the electoral districts was
disrupted in the Feb. 2 general elections. Makeup votes are set for April 20 and 27, which is later than hoped for by
the government. The result is that Ms. Yingluck's administration will remain a caretaker government at least until May.
Write to Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol at firstname.lastname@example.org
Corrections & Amplifications Suthep Thaugsuban is a former deputy prime minister of Thailand. An earlier version of
this article incorrectly said he was formerly a prime minister of the country.
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