Thai government warns protesters as power struggle deepens

BANGKOK Sun May 11, 2014 4:06am EDT

1 of 3. Thai Buddhist monk and protest leader Luang Pu Buddha Issara (C) is surrounded by his supporters and reporters as anti-government protesters wait for police to apologise for firing teargas a day before at a police compound housing a government security group, north of Bangkok May 10, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

Related Topics

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's beleaguered government on Sunday warned people to stay away from anti-government protests, saying it had to step up security as the two sides in a lengthy political crisis squared off over who is running the country.

The caretaker government loyal to ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is clinging to power and to the hope of an election in July to restore its authority.

But the government's enemies deride its legitimacy and are calling on the upper house of parliament, the courts and the Election Commission to appoint a new prime minister.

The head of the government team overseeing security during months of demonstrations against Yingluck and her brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, said protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban's call for a new prime minister was illegal.

"We would like to warn all Thais to stay away from the protest sites as we have to tighten our security forces in a bid to avert a crisis," Tharit Pengdit, chief of the Department of Special Investigation, told reporters.

Protesters have used guns and grenades to resist police efforts to clear them off the streets and the government has generally sought to avoid confrontation.

But Tharit's warning could be a sign that the government is feeling increasingly embattled, especially after Yingluck's sacking by the Constitutional Court for nepotism on Wednesday, and is trying to assert its authority.

The sometimes violent protests against Yingluck and Thaksin have sapped investor confidence, frightened off tourists and dented growth in Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.

A day after Yingluck and nine of her cabinet members were thrown out of office she was indicted by an anti-corruption agency for negligence over a rice subsidy scheme that ran up big losses. The Senate is expected to impeach her for that, which could result in a ban from politics.

But Yingluck's Puea Thai party still runs the caretaker government and it is hoping to organize an election, tentatively scheduled for July 20, that it would probably win.

Thaksin or his loyalists have won every election since 2001. But his enemies say he is corrupt and buys votes and they want an appointed "people's council" to oversee electoral rule changes to stop the Shinawatras from winning.

SENATE SESSION

Thailand has been divided for years by a struggle between the royalist establishment and Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon who fuelled a spectacular political rise with policies that won over the rural and urban poor.

But Thaksin's success posed a challenge to the traditional Bangkok-based power elite and he was dogged by accusations of corruption. He was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and has lived abroad since being sentenced to jail for graft in 2008.

The rival supporters are staging sit-in protests at various places in and on the outskirts of Bangkok, raising fears of violence.

Two anti-government protesters were injured in a suspected grenade blast on Saturday night outside the prime minister's offices, which have been vacant for weeks.

Yingluck's "red shirt" supporters have denounced her removal as a judicial coup and have warned of a tough reaction if their caretaker government is also thrown out.

The Senate is due to hold a special session on Monday to discuss the crisis.

The army, which has staged numerous coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, has stayed out of the turmoil, with the army chief insisting that politicians have to settle the dispute. But substantial violence would raise the possibility of military intervention.

(Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
JPHR wrote:
Senate 150 seats with 76 elected and 74 nominated. The latter are distorting democracy. Even with 74 nominated the old elite did not succeed in a 2/3 majority to evict Yingluck.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_Thailand
The P”D”RC reforms will tilt the playing field to their advantage, because with normal elections the PFRC will never win.
The PFRC uses the pretext of corruption, but that’s only a cover for their fear of the proposal of the Yingluck government to go for a fully elected senate.

May 11, 2014 8:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Pictures