Thai PM will not resign before polls

2013-12-10 16:49
Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra. (Pornchai Kittiwongsakul, AFP).

Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra. (Pornchai Kittiwongsakul, AFP).

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Bangkok - Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Tuesday she would not resign ahead of national elections set for 2 February, her voice filling with emotion as she discussed her family's role in Thai politics.

Yingluck spoke one day after she announced elections, and one day after the main opposition leader ended a massive protest rally of 150 000 people by insisting his movement had now assumed broad political power.

The streets of Bangkok were quiet on Tuesday, a national holiday, after weeks of sometimes violent political turmoil as protesters demand Yingluck give up power to an unelected "people's council".

The protesters accuse Yingluck of serving as a proxy for her billionaire brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in self-imposed exile to avoid jail time for a corruption conviction but still wields immense influence in the country.

She became choked up when reporters asked, as they often do, about her family's position in Thailand's political scene.

"I'm not without emotion," she said, her voice quavering. "I'm also Thai. Do you not want me to set foot on Thai soil anymore?

Amnesty

"I have retreated as far as I can. So I ask to be treated fairly," she said, turning and walking quickly away from the podium.

Ever since, the two sides have been duelling for power, sometimes violently. Since the latest unrest began last month, at least five people have been killed and at least 289 injured.

The latest round of protests started last month when Yingluck's party tried to pass a bill that would have granted amnesty to Thaksin and others.

Yingluck insisted on Tuesday that she would remain the interim head of government until 2 February. "I must do my duty as caretaker prime minister according to the constitution," she said.

The protesters were not quieted by Monday's announcement of new elections, saying they cannot win the polls because of corruption. The opposition Democrat Party, allied with the protest movement, has been defeated by Thaksin-allied parties in every election since 2001.

A decree from King Bhumibol Adulyadej scheduled the elections on 2 February and named Yingluck as interim prime minister until then.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who faces an arrest warrant on insurrection charges, spoke to more than 150 000 followers on Monday at a stage near Yingluck's offices, challenging authorities to "Come get me".

People's council

He said that his movement was assuming some functions of government, citing a clause in the constitution stating that "the highest power is the sovereign power of the people".

"This means that from now on the people will appoint the prime minister of the people and appoint the government of the people," he told a cheering crowd. "This means that from now on, we will have the people's council doing the legislating instead of the parliament, which is now dismissed."

Suthep challenged Yingluck to resign to make way for a new prime minister to be appointed outside of normal constitutional procedures.

But there was no sign on Tuesday that Suthep's movement had assumed any government powers, or that Yingluck's administration would cede any to them.

Suthep on Monday called for civil servants to report to the protest group instead of the government, and urged citizens to set up their own neighbourhood peacekeeping forces to take over from police. The protesters have castigated the police for being zealous defenders of the government.

- AP

Read more on:    yingluck shinawatra  |  thaksin shinawatra  |  thailand
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