Thai anti-govt protesters target PM again despite hint of talks

BANGKOK Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:24am IST

Riot police guard the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) office as government supporters gather outside in Nonthaburi province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, February 27, 2014. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Riot police guard the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) office as government supporters gather outside in Nonthaburi province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, February 27, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

Related Topics

Rajalakshmi (C), 28, smiles after winning the Miss Wheelchair India beauty pageant in Mumbai November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Miss Wheelchair India

Seven women from across India participated in the country's second wheelchair beauty pageant, which aims to open doors for the wheelchair-bound in modelling, film and television, according to organisers  Slideshow 

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Protesters in Thailand said they will rally at ministries and companies linked to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Friday, keeping up pressure on her to resign despite a vague proposal of talks from their leader.

The protesters have blocked big intersections in the capital, Bangkok, since mid-January and forced many ministries to close as part of a four-month campaign to push out Yingluck and eradicate the political influence of her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, seen as the real power in Thailand.

Violence has grown, with almost daily gun and grenade attacks around protest sites by unidentified people. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban suggested on Thursday that he and Yingluck should hold a televised debate.

However, in a speech to supporters late on Thursday, Suthep showed his more combative side, directly blaming Yingluck for two attacks on protesters at the weekend in which five people were killed, including four children.

"You have murdered four young, innocent children, Yingluck," he said, challenging her supporters in the rural north and northeast of the country to a fight in the capital.

"Come to Bangkok and try to start a civil war," he said. "Let's see who can assemble more people, come on."

Yingluck, speaking from the northern city of Chiang Mai, gave a guarded response to the idea of a debate.

"The talks have to have a framework, though I am not sure what that framework would look like," she said on Thursday. "But many parties have to be involved because I alone cannot answer on behalf of the Thai people."

The crisis broadly pits middle-class Bangkokians and southern anti-government demonstrators, backed by the royalist establishment, against the largely rural supporters of Yingluck and Thaksin.

After a period of relative calm following Yingluck's sweeping election victory in 2011, opposition swelled after her government tried to push through a political amnesty that would have let Thaksin return from self-imposed exile without having to serve a jail sentence for graft charges he says were politically motivated.

Thaksin was toppled by the army in 2006. The military has tried to stay above the fray this time but Yingluck is still facing multiple challenges from the courts, which threw out two governments allied to Thaksin in 2008.

On Thursday she was formally served with charges of negligence relating to a government rice subsidy programme that has failed disastrously, leaving hundreds of thousands of farmers unpaid and costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

Yingluck faces removal from office and a five-year ban from politics if she is found guilty. She has until March 14 to try to refute the charges, after which the anti-corruption agency will decide whether to take the case further.

She called an election for February 2 to try to end the crisis but it was disrupted by the protesters and it is unclear when voting can be held in those areas where it was not completed.

The protesters want to set up a "people's council" of unspecified worthy people to force through political and electoral changes before a new election is held, hoping that will stop parties loyal to Thaksin from winning.

(Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak and Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Paul Tait)

FILED UNDER:

SAARC Summit

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Rate Cut

Rate Cut

Markets pricing in rate cut, despite wary RBI.  Full Article 

Global Trade Deal

Global Trade Deal

WTO postpones trade deal by a day after last-minute objection.  Full Article 

Tax Dispute

Tax Dispute

India advised against challenging Vodafone tax ruling - source.  Full Article 

Racial Riots

Racial Riots

National Guard, police curb Ferguson unrest as protests swell across U.S.  Full Article 

Land Acquisitions

Land Acquisitions

Disputes over land for industry on the rise in India, angering locals - charities.  Full Article 

Scrubbing Results

Scrubbing Results

EU watchdogs to apply 'right to be forgotten' rule on Web worldwide.  Full Article 

Special Report

Special Report

Putin's allies channelled billions to Ukraine oligarch.  Full Article 

Flashback: 26/11 attacks

Flashback: 26/11 attacks

The three-day attack in November 2008 left 166 dead.  Slideshow 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage