Political protests in Thailand
BANGKOK (AP) – Protesters vowing to topple Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra took to the streets for a fourth straight day today, declaring they would take over “every ministry” of the government.
The brash threat is the biggest challenge yet to the embattled premier’s administration, raising fears of fresh political violence in the Southeast Asian nation.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who resigned as an opposition lawmaker to lead the demonstrations, led more than 5 000 people out of the Finance Ministry, which has been shut and occupied by mobs since they stormed it Monday.
Police have issued an arrest warrant for Suthep, but there appeared to be no attempt to detain him as he led the march. Authorities had said they would not arrest him while he rallied at the ministry as part of a pledge to avoid clashes with protesters.
In a speech late yesterday, Suthep announced his movement’s goal is to replace the government with a non-elected council, a change he said was necessary to eradicate the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin, Yingluck’s billionaire older brother, was ousted by a 2006 military coup and fled the country to avoid a two-year prison term on a corruption conviction. He continues to sharply divide the nation, with his supporters and opponents battling for power.
In broad terms, the confrontation pits the Thai elite and the educated middle-class against Thaksin’s power base in the countryside, which benefited from populist policies designed to win over the rural poor.