Thai protesters head for downtown Bangkok in bid to topple PM

BANGKOK — Thai anti-government protesters who have been camped out in north Bangkok packed their tents and marched downtown on Monday as they consolidated efforts to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, a day after a disrupted general election.

Some joined protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban on foot and others followed in cars and six-wheel trucks as Thailand’s long-running political conflict showed no sign of ending.

Others surrounded a government office in north Bangkok where Yingluck and two senior ministers had been holding a meeting and cut through a barbed-wire fence. They did not enter the building, and it was unclear if Yingluck was still inside.

The protesters closed camps at two of the seven big intersections that they have blockaded since mid-January, at Victory Monument and Lat Phrao, and were heading for the fringes of the central oasis of Lumpini Park.

Suthep said on Sunday this was being done because of safety concerns.

Suthep’s supporters on the route showed no sign of crumbling, waving flags and handing over money.

The demonstrators blocked balloting in a fifth of the country’s constituencies on Sunday, saying Yingluck must resign and make way for an appointed “people’s council” to overhaul a political system they say has been taken hostage by her billionaire brother and former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Caretaker

The election was peaceful, apart from a few scuffles, with no repeat of the chaos seen on Saturday, when supporters and opponents of Yingluck clashed in north Bangkok. Seven people were wounded by gunshots or explosions.

Suthep to supporters late Sunday:

“I’m confident this election won’t lead to the formation of a new government.”

20.4 million people cast their vote on Sunday, according to the Election Commission’s provisional data, just under 46 percent of the 44.6 million eligible voters in 68 of 77 provinces. In the other nine provinces, no voting was possible.

Voting was disrupted in 18 percent of constituencies, 67 out of 375, according to the Commission, revising data given Sunday.

The Election Commission expected legal challenges as early as Monday to try and invalidate the poll and attack the government’s legitimacy.

Thaksin’s supporters accuse the military and the establishment, including the judiciary, of colluding over the years to oust his governments.

Source: Reuters

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