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Asia-pacific

PM calls early elections as 100,000 march in Bangkok

© afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-09

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced on Monday that she will dissolve the lower house of parliament and call early elections as 100,000 protesters marched through the streets of Bangkok, with many denouncing the move as "not enough".

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced Monday that she would dissolve the lower house of parliament and call early elections in a bid to address the concerns of protesters, as 100,000 people marched through the streets of Bangkok vowing to overthrow her government.

Protesters have said they would not settle for the prime minister’s resignation but instead want to rid Thailand of her family’s influence. Thailand has been plagued by political turmoil since the army toppled Yingluck’s brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in a 2006 coup.

Yingluck appeared emotional and her voice shook as she spoke in a nationally televised address on Monday morning.

“After listening to opinions from all sides, I have decided to request a royal decree to dissolve parliament,” she said, breaking into regular programming. “There will be new elections according to the democratic system.”

She said the election commission would set a date for the polls “as soon as possible” and that she would remain in a caretaker capacity until the election of a new prime minister. As a formality, the king must approve the dissolution after which elections must be held within 60 days.

Police estimated that some 100,000 protesters were out on the streets of the Thai capital on Monday, with long columns of protesters paralysing traffic on major Bangkok boulevards.

The protesters accuse Yingluck of serving as merely a proxy for her brother, who lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai to avoid jail time for a corruption conviction he says was politically motivated.

It has mainly been the Thai elite and the educated middle class that has been demonstrating against the Thaksin regime, which continues to enjoy support in the countryside for his populist policies that benefited the rural poor.

‘Not enough’

Protest leaders called for a peaceful march on Monday but some fear the march could turn violent when demonstrators converge from nine locations on Yingluck’s office at Government House.

Many protesters dismissed the announcement that parliament would be dissolved as insufficient.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has repeatedly said that calling fresh elections would not be enough to end the demonstrations. He has demanded that a non-elected “people’s council” lead the country instead, an idea that has been criticised as utopian and undemocratic.

The sentiment was the same across town, where protesters filled a major four-lane road in the city’s central business district, waving flags, blowing whistles and holding a huge banner that said: “Get Out Shinawatra.”

Asked about the dissolution of parliament, one middle-aged woman in the crowd said the move was “not enough”.

“At the end of the day, we are going to win,” said the woman, who identified herself as Paew. “What happens now? Don’t worry. We will figure it out.”

Opposition resigns en masse

The country’s political standoff deepened on Sunday after the main opposition party resigned from the legislature en masse to join the anti-government demonstrations. The Democrats held 153 of the 500 seats in the legislative body, according to the latest figures on their website.

The minority Democrats – who are closely allied with the protesters – have not won an election since 1992, and some of their leaders appear to have given up on electoral politics as a result.

Yingluck’s government, by contrast, came to power in a landslide vote in 2011 that observers said was free and fair.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of the Democrat Party and a former premier, led one of the marches through Bangkok on Monday. He declined to comment on whether the party would participate in the next election.

The crisis boiled over after Yingluck’s ruling party tried to speed a controversial amnesty bill through the legislature that critics say was designed mainly to bring Thaksin home to Thailand.

Since the latest unrest began last month, at least five people have been killed and at least 289 injured. Violence ended suddenly last week as both sides paused to celebrate the birthday of the nation’s revered king, who turned 86 on Thursday.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)
 

Date created : 2013-12-09

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