Thai PM: Election best way to end crisis


Yingluck’s opponents do not want February polls, fearing they will return Shinawatra family to power

BANGKOK: Thailand’s prime minister urged anti-government protesters yesterday to vent their anger against her at the ballot box, insisting that elections were the best way to solve the country’s deepening political crisis.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has faced weeks of mass street demonstrations seeking to force her elected government from office and install an appointed “people’s council” in its place.

The protesters aim to rein in the political dominance of Yingluck’s billionaire brother, fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, whom they accuse of controlling the government from self-exile.

Yingluck hosted talks yesterday to discuss a proposal by the country’s election commission to postpone the polls, but the opposition as well as the kingdom’s ostensibly independent election commissioners refused to attend.

While she did not completely rule out a delay, Yingluck reiterated her concerns that the constitution does not allow a postponement of the February 2 polls.

“If people don’t want this government they should go out and vote,” she said.

Many of her opponents, who include much of the country’s royalist establishment, do not want the February polls to go ahead, fearing they will only return the Shinawatra family or its allies to power.

They say electoral reforms are needed before a vote is held in at least a year’s time, but deny they are seeking to suspend the country’s fragile democratic system.

Defiant demonstrators vowed to keep up their efforts to oust the prime minister with their self-styled “Bangkok shutdown” by occupying key intersections in the city.

Tensions flared overnight after two people were slightly wounded in a shooting by unknown gunmen at an anti-government rally in Bangkok’s commercial district, while a small blast shook a house owned by the opposition leader’s family.

“The two incidents are a signal that the people’s revolution has almost succeeded,” rally leader Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters as he led a march through upscale neighbourhoods of Bangkok.

Armed provocateurs have a history of trying to stir tensions in the politically polarised kingdom, and several people – including a policeman – have been killed by unidentified assailants since the protests began more than two months ago.

Late on Tuesday a small bomb or a firecracker was hurled at a house belonging to the family of opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former prime minister who faces a murder charge for a deadly military crackdown on street protests when he was in office in 2010.

Protesters blocked key intersections in the capital for a third straight day, but there was more traffic on the roads, in a possible sign that the attempted “shutdown” was losing momentum.

Rally leader Suthep was greeted by crowds of supporters – many of whom handed over fistfuls of banknotes to help fund the rally – during his march through wealthy residential areas of Bangkok yesterday.

The firebrand opposition politician even threatened Tuesday to take the prime minister and several cabinet ministers captive if they do not resign. — AFP