Protesters swarm in Thai capital to demand PM resigns
Monday, 23 December 2013 00:00
Reuters: Tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators massed at sites around Thailand’s capital on Sunday in a bid to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra before an uncertain February election the main opposition party will boycott.
Yingluck has called a snap poll for February 2 to try to cool tension and renew her mandate, but protesters reject any election until the implementation of vague reforms ostensibly aimed at weakening the influence of the Shinawatra family.
The weeks-long political deadlock became more uncertain on Saturday when the opposition Democrat Party, Thailand’s oldest, announced it would boycott the election, saying the democratic system had failed Thais.
The boycott adds to concern that powerful forces allied with the opposition would try to scuttle an election that is otherwise likely to return Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party to power, and perpetuate the influence of her self-exiled brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Chanting “Yingluck, get out”, thousands of whistle-blowing protesters gathered at locations around the city and set up stages in at least four places, bringing traffic to a halt at three main intersections and in two commercial districts.
Hundreds surrounded Yingluck’s house and demanded she quit. Yingluck, now caretaker premier, is not in Bangkok and has been visiting the northeast, her party’s stronghold.
The protest leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Democrat heavyweight, wants a suspension of democracy and the installation of an appointed “people’s council”.
Yingluck and Thaksin remain hugely popular in the north and northeast, but Suthep’s movement is backed by a powerful minority - Bangkok’s middle class, bureaucrats, conservative elites and top army generals.
The Election Commission on Friday ruled out postponing the vote having earlier said it was concerned the polls could be marred by violence.
The politicised military, which has staged 18 coups since 1932, some successful, some failed, insists it is neutral, but many Thais suspect the allegiance of the generals, who removed Thaksin in a 2006 coup, is with the anti-government camp.