Thai protesters rally against PM ahead of Senate vote

BANGKOK Sat Mar 29, 2014 8:40am EDT

1 of 7. Anti-government protesters from the Network of Students and People for Thailand's Reform take part in a rally at Government House in Bangkok March 29, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Thai anti-government protesters rallied across Bangkok on Saturday in their latest bid to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, a day before a crucial vote to elect a new Senate.

Waving flags and blowing whistles, protesters marched from Lumpini Park in the business district of Bangkok, where protesters retreated to earlier this month, toward the city's old quarter after a brief hiatus in anti-government rallies.

"The rally has been largely peaceful and very disciplined. Protesters are now heading back to their base in the park after a series of symbolic ceremonies," Paradorn Pattanathabutr, a security adviser to the prime minister, told Reuters.

"We expected the crowd to be around 50,000-strong but the number of protesters doesn't look like it will exceed 30,000."

A grenade exploded as protesters passed the Foreign Ministry offices, but no one was hurt, police said. It was unclear who was responsible for the attack.

Thailand has been in crisis since former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother, was ousted in a 2006 coup. The conflict broadly pits the Bangkok-based middle class and royalist establishment against the mostly poorer, rural supporters of the Shinawatras.

Saturday's march is seen as a test of the anti-government movement's popularity as the number of protesters has dwindled considerably in recent weeks.

By mid-afternoon police put the crowd at around 20,000. Around 500 protesters from the Network of Students and People for the Reform of Thailand, a splinter group of the main protest group, broke into the compound of Government House, a site largely abandoned by officials.

Over the past five months, protesters have shut state offices and disrupted a February 2 election which was nullified by a court on March 21, leaving Thailand in political limbo and Yingluck at the head of a caretaker government with limited powers.

Election officials have said it will take at least three months to organize a new election.

Since the current round of protests kicked off in November, 23 people have been killed in sporadic political violence.

"OPPRESSIVE REGIME"

Protesters want political and electoral reforms before a new general election and to rid the country of Thaksin's influence.

"We will no longer accept this oppressive regime. They, Thaksin and Yingluck, are no longer welcome in Thailand," protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters as he led protesters who shouted "Yingluck, get out!".

Yingluck has dismissed calls by protesters to step down but faces several legal challenges that could lead to her removal. She has until Monday to defend herself before the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for dereliction of duty over a rice-buying scheme that has run up huge losses.

If the commission recommends her impeachment, she could be removed from office by the upper house Senate which may have an anti-Thaksin majority after an election for half its members on Sunday.

The vote is to elect 77 senators for the 150-seat Senate. The rest are appointed, and a government attempt to make it a fully elected body was one of the sparks that set off the latest unrest in November.

The non-elected Senators are picked by judges and senior officials from agencies such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), members of an establishment whom government supporters see as viscerally anti-Thaksin.

"Red shirt" supporters of Yinguck and Thaksin are sounding more militant under hardline new leaders and say they are prepared to take to the streets of Bangkok as moves to impeach Yingluck gather pace, increasing the risk of a confrontation.

They plan a big rally, possibly in Bangkok, on April 5.

At the height of the current protests more than 200,000 people took to the streets to demand Yingluck's resignation.

(Additional reporting by Chaiwat Subprasom; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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Comments (3)
rpt7777 wrote:
“The non-elected Senators are picked by judges and senior officials from agencies such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), members of an establishment whom government supporters see as viscerally anti-Thaksin.” This inbred bunch pick each other. Senators pick the judges and judges pick the senators….neither could be elected separately…they are just too corrupt. This is the only way they can cling to power. And yet they have the unmitigated gall to call the opposition to them corrupt.

Mar 29, 2014 5:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
reutersslayer wrote:
The usual drivel expected from lame stream corporate media propagandists that reuters are. The turnout was in the millions not “tens of thousands”. At the height of the protests, it was the largest turnout in the history of the world not “200 thousand”. These people have no support from the rural poor. They work directly for the rockefellers and Roschilde Bankster criminal cartel (who also owns reuters and AP, by the way). Thailand is practicing real democracy and will send these vipers to their end. Then we will have US sanctions and possibly an invasion of US forces for some made up media lie. Leave thailand alone !!!! How many times do we need to see these criminals do the same thing over and over in country after country before we open our eyes and see the pattern. Thank God the Thai family is not as stupid as the Americans are.

Mar 30, 2014 11:05am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Op.H wrote:
It is indeed rather galling that after 5 months of protest, so little has yet to emerge in terms of World News. It’s already bad enough as it is with the majority of main steam TV being owned by Thaksin, but to even witness global News come out so distorted is simply unmeaningful.
“We expected the crowd to be around 50,000-strong but the number of protesters doesn’t look like it will exceed 30,000.” according to whom? Paradorn Pattanathabutr, a security adviser to the prime minister, told Reuters.
On another news page there appeared the same sentence. Except this one went “according to Reuters”
A country in distress in their attempt to undergo change for the better; after decades of being taken advantage of through corruption and this is how the News shall have it go down in the books?

Apr 01, 2014 12:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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