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Yingluck bids to avert city shutdown

BANGKOK: Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is pushing for a new dialogue with the anti-government protest movement ahead of its plan to "shut down" Bangkok next Monday.

Bangkok Post

Monday 6 January 2014, 10:05AM

Protesters led by People’s Democratic Reform Committee secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban pay homage to the statue of King Rama I at the Memorial Bridge as they march through the streets to drum up support for the Jan 13 plan to ‘‘shut down’’ the city. Photo: Bangkok Post/THITI WANNAMONTHA
Protesters led by People’s Democratic Reform Committee secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban pay homage to the statue of King Rama I at the Memorial Bridge as they march through the streets to drum up support for the Jan 13 plan to ‘‘shut down’’ the city. Photo: Bangkok Post/THITI WANNAMONTHA

Ms Yingluck has asked the military to act as a mediator between the government and the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) ahead of the shutdown plan, a government source said.

PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban met several top military figures on Saturday to discuss how to end the crisis.

No progress resulted from the talks as Mr Suthep reiterated his demands for an interim government to push for national reforms, the source said.

Ms Yingluck yesterday repeated her calls for the public to vote.

In a message posted on her Facebook page yesterday, Ms Yingluck said while elections cannot solve problems overnight, they can ease the crisis along with reforms and empowerment of local administrations. "If you don't want the government to return, you can fight through an election," she said.

"We should change a rally into a powerful force to scrutinise government.

"A reform forum should be used to make changes you want to see _ be it a transparent and fair election or stamping out corruption among politicians, civil servants or [the] private sector.

"To bring this about, we need to amend the laws and we need a government and a parliament to make it happen."

Ms Yingluck said cancelling the election would bring the country to a dead end.The House has been dissolved for the election, which means the government is limited in its powers.

Ms Yingluck's remarks came a day after Mr Suthep threatened to take "unprecedented" action to pressure the caretaker government to quit.

Next Monday, the PDRC will dissolve the rally site on Ratchadamnoen Avenue and set up six new main rally sites downtown and block Chaeng Wattana Road to prevent the cabinet from working at the Government Complex.

He said Ms Yingluck could be forced to leave the country and her assets would be seized if the protesters win.

Mr Suthep yesterday led protesters on a 8km march through inner Bangkok to encourage people to join the Monday protests.

He received more than 1.78 million baht in donations from supporters along the route. He told protesters last night that the protests after Monday will be a fierce battle between the people and Ms Yingluck. "I'm not anxious at all [about the fight]," Mr Suthep said.

But the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (Capo) and the Pheu Thai Party yesterday continued to criticise the Bangkok shutdown plan.

Caretaker Information and Communication Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap said the mass rally could turn violent.

C and C Marine

Speaking in a live address, he said recent protest-related incidents indicated some protesters had taken drugs to give them courage to cause violence.

A large number of weapons and explosives were seized from suspects who allegedly confessed to being hired to stage violence, Gp Capt Anudith said.

The minister also said there were purchases of large amounts of bullets for the same type of guns which were stolen from police vehicles during the Dec 26 clashes between protesters and the police at the Thai-Japanese Stadium.

Suranand Vejjajiva, the prime minister's secretary-general, urged the PDRC to review its strategy, saying the shutdown plan is more of an attempt at intimidation than an act of freedom of expression.

"The PDRC should resolve the crisis at the negotiating table," he said on his Facebook page.

Mr Suranand said the government can invoke the emergency decree to keep peace and order if necessary.

He insisted the special law will not be used to crack down on the protesters.

Tida Thawornseth, chairwoman of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), and UDD core member Jatuporn Prompan said the shutdown talk was merely intended to distract public attention.

They said the UDD believed the army would attempt to stage a coup before then, citing a military report of "unusual movements" to the 11th Infantry Regiment under the pretext of taking part in Children's Day on Saturday and Armed Forces Day on Jan 18. In fact, it was in preparation for a coup, they claimed.

Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit yesterday called on the PDRC to respond to a report that about 6,000 hardcore protesters were being mobilised to instigate violence. He said the report suggested the new round of violence might be worse than the Thai-Japanese Stadium clash.

Pairote Polpet, a member of the Law Reform Commission, said the standoff is reaching a crucial point.

He called on the PDRC to enter negotiations and avoid confrontation. "The PDRC has strong bargaining power. It will be able to push for the gist of reform even though it can't root out the Thaksin regime overnight," he said.

Mr Pairote said the PDRC might not be able to keep its protest peaceful if it escalates. If it cannot maintain peace, it will lose legitimacy.

Wutthisarn Tanchai, deputy secretary-general of the King Prachadipok Institute, expressed concerns about the risk of violence. He said some groups tend to believe that a small spurt of violence may bring both sides to reconsider their political stances and back down.

Read the original story here.



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