Embattled Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva came under further pressure Monday following the election body’s call for the dissolution of the ruling party after bloody clashes between opposition supporters and security forces.
AFP - Thailand's election body called Monday for the dissolution of the ruling party, piling the pressure on embattled Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva after the bloodiest political unrest in 18 years.
The move, which centres on allegations of an illegal multi-million-dollar donation to the Democrat Party during the 2005 election campaign, raises the stakes in the long-running standoff between Abhisit and the "Red Shirt" anti-government protesters.
The demonstrators, who are demanding snap elections and the resignation of Abhisit, paraded their dead through the streets of Bangkok on Monday after 21 people were killed in bloody clashes on Saturday.
Abhisit accused "terrorists" of inciting the violence and insisted the government remained united in how to tackle the crisis pitting Thailand's elite military-backed rulers and the country's impoverished rural poor.
"The government is unified and determined to solve this problem."
Both the government and protesters appeared more deeply entrenched than ever following the deadly clashes that also left more than 800 people injured and caused a trail of destruction through popular tourist areas.
A spokesman for the Democrat Party, Buranaj Smutharaks, said it would challenge the election commission's recommendation, which refers to a donation made when Abhisit was deputy leader of the party.
ON THE OBSERVERS
"The case is not over yet. It must be investigated by the attorney general and then go to the constitutional court," he said.
But experts said the commission's call was significant in a country where the last government in 2008 was brought down by a court ruling.
The Reds charge that the current government is illegitimate because it came to power in 2008 after a court ousted allies of former prime minister and telecoms tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra from power.
"The prospect of the party being dissolved will really spook the Democrats and this could really change the political landscape very quickly," said Michael Montesano, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
The Red Shirt movement, which has been pushing the election authorities to act on the Democrat Party allegations, said earlier Monday that the time for negotiating with Abhisit's government was over.
"There will be no talks with the government. We will not talk with killers," said Reds leader Jatuporn Prompan. "What else is there to talk about?"
Army chief Anupong Paojinda said he supported early elections to end the crisis that has gripped Thailand since Thaksin, who is now living in exile, was ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006.
"We must return to politics to solve the problem. It must be ended by political means," Anupong told reporters, suggesting that he was reluctant to use force again to put down the protests after the weekend bloodshed.
Coverage from Bangkok
Seventeen civilians, including a Japanese cameraman, and four soldiers were killed after the army launched a crackdown on the Thaksin supporters who have staged weeks of mass demonstrations.
Pick-up trucks carrying two slain protesters and 14 empty caskets draped with Thai flags and flowers paraded through Bangkok Monday and thousands of protesters later massed outside Abhisit's house, guarded by hundreds of police.
The Red Shirts, who hail from mainly poor and rural areas, insist they will not end their campaign until the government calls immediate polls and Abhisit stands down.
Many are seeking the return of Thaksin, hailed by the poor for his policies for the masses, such as cheap healthcare.
The mass rallies in Bangkok have dealt a heavy blow to the vital tourist sector, and deepening fears about the impact of the crisis on the economy sent Thai stocks plunging more than five percent at one point on Monday.
Shaken tourists have been seen packing up and leaving the capital after bloody clashes spread into the Khaosan Road backpacker district.
Saturday's violence erupted when troops tried to clear one of two sites in the city centre which have been occupied by the protesters for the past month.
An independent autopsy panel found that nine "Red Shirts" who died in Saturday's clashes had been killed by gunshots, a hospital director said Monday.
Police in Japan also reportedly plan to launch a probe into the killing of the Japanese cameraman during the unrest.
Date created : 2010-04-12