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Asia-pacific

Thai prime minister rejects opposition calls to resign

© afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-11

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday refused opposition calls to resign before snap elections in February as protest leaders announced the creation of a parallel government and said the premier should be charged with "insurrection".

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday refused demands by anti-government protesters that she resign before snap elections she has promised for February, urging protesters to abandon their demonstrations.

In a sharp drop from the roughly 140,000 people who attended protests Monday, police said some 7,650 protesters gathered in the capital Tuesday afternoon to call for the elected government to step down.

Bangkok has been shaken by more than a month of mass opposition rallies aimed at ousting the premier and ridding the kingdom of the influence of her older brother, deposed former leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

The demonstrators are a loosely allied group united by their animosity towards Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon who was overthrown in a military coup in 2006 but is widely thought to remain the power behind the throne.

Yingluck, who has scheduled early elections on February 2 in a bid to try to calm the protesters, said her cabinet was legally bound to act as an interim government until the polls are held.

"I would like the protesters to stop and to use the electoral system to choose who will become the next government," she told reporters after a cabinet meeting early Tuesday.

The prime minister – who said she had not yet discussed with party colleagues whether she would run in the election – rejected protesters' calls that her family be removed from Thai politics.

"I have retreated as far as I can – give me some fairness," she said.

Parallel government

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has rejected the early elections as not enough and announced the creation of a parallel government, complete with “volunteer peacekeepers'' to replace the police and an unelected “people's council'' to rule the country.

The firebrand former deputy prime minister, who faces an arrest warrant for insurrection for his role in leading the protests, has called on the premier and her colleagues to resign.

"As soon as (the interim government) hands its resignation to the king, we will all go home," he said earlier this week.

In a speech late Tuesday night, Suthep said his group was ordering that Yingluck also be prosecuted on insurrection charges.

Analysts say his bid to seize power could become reality if the military or the judiciary intervenes in his favour.

Thaksin is loathed by many in the royalist elite and Bangkok middle class, but loved among the working classes and those in his rural northeastern heartland.

His overthrow in 2006 by generals loyal to the king ushered in years of political turmoil and rival street protests by the royalist "Yellow Shirts" and Thaksin's supporters, known as the "Red Shirts".

Pro-Thaksin parties have won every election in more than a decade, but all governments linked to the divisive former premier since 2006 have been cut short by military or judicial intervention without serving a full term.

Observers have raised fears that if another Thaksin-allied government is forcibly removed it could trigger a fresh round of violence.

Yingluck's ruling Puea Thai Party is widely expected to win the upcoming vote, bolstered by Thaksin's enduring popularity for his populist policies that benfited the rural poor.

The opposition Democrat Party – whose MPs resigned en masse Sunday because they could not achieve anything in parliament – has not won an elected majority in about two decades.

Democrat Party officials said Monday they had not yet decided whether to take part in the upcoming election.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP and AFP)

 

Date created : 2013-12-11

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