Saturday 21 October 2017

Pledge fails to end Thai mass rallies

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban greets a crowd of anti-government protesters before making an address outside the Government House in Bangkok
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban greets a crowd of anti-government protesters before making an address outside the Government House in Bangkok

Steve Finch

The Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's surprise decision to call snap elections failed to end mass rallies in Bangkok last night.

In a day that saw hundreds of thousands of protesters march across the capital, Ms Shinawatra announced the decision to dissolve parliament just over halfway through her four-year term.

"Let the people decide the direction of the country," she said in a televised address.

Suthep Thaugsuban, a protest leader, claimed victory in a speech outside Ms Shinawatra's office yesterday, saying sovereign power "has been taken back by the people".

The main opposition Democrat Party resigned from parliament en masse on Sunday and is yet to decide whether to take part in the snap election, called for February 2. It will make a decision this week.

"We are not thinking of winning or losing elections at this stage; we just want the best for the country," he said.

The government has faced almost daily protests after it tried to pass an unpopular amnesty bill through parliament that critics said would have smoothed the return of Ms Shinawatra's exiled brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, also a former leader of the country.

The government had termed the proposed legislation "a political reset" after nearly a decade of cyclical violence and protests. But rallies have continued in Bangkok since the Senate defeated the bill a month ago.

Sensing waning government popularity, protest leaders have stepped up their demands for the end of Mr Thaksin's influence and even a boycott of products linked to his family business empire, which includes internet services, hospitals and restaurants. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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