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Showdown looming

Publication Date : 11-05-2014

 

Anti-govt protest leader wants appointed PM by Monday or he'll act on his own; red shirts warn of civil war

 

Anti- and pro-government demonstrators in Thailand were heading for a dangerous confrontation yesterday after the anti-government leader threatened to take action himself if a new prime minister is not appointed by tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the red-shirt supporters of the government yesterday began their "mass rally" on Aksa Road, an area adjacent to Bangkok, to challenge the anti-government group's attempt to hand power to an unelected government. A red-shirt leader also warned that Thailand was lurching towards "civil war".

Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), said that he had requested leading figures in the three branches of government, including the Senate Speaker and the Supreme Court president, to help find a new prime minister. He argued that the current government had become "headless" after Yingluck Shinawatra was ousted as prime minister by the Constitutional Court on Wednesday.

"There is no prime minister, no caretaker, just an acting prime minister with little power. The time has come for the Senate to appoint one," Suthep declared on television.

Suthep believes caretaker deputy premier Nivattumrong Boonsongpisan, who was appointed acting prime minister by the Cabinet following the court ruling against Yingluck, has no right to serve as caretaker prime minister.

"The people hope there will be a new prime minister of the people by Monday. If not, we will have no choice but to take action by ourselves. We can't allow the country to continue like this anymore," Suthep said.

"From tomorrow [today], we will issue statements. And I will read the statements inside Government House."

Suthep, who has led an anti-government rally that has continued for more than six months, held his press conference yesterday at a protest site outside Government House. The event was also broadcast live on Channels 3, 5, 9 and ThaiPBS.

The PDRC threatened to do "what is necessary" to bring about an appointed "people's government" if the caretaker administration does not resign within 72 hours.

At the red-shirt rally, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) chairman Jatuporn Prompan denounced the PDRC's call for judges, the Senate president and other prominent figures to choose a new premier.

"The red shirts cannot accept the undemocratic and unconstitutional appointment of a prime minister. It would be the beginning of a disaster for the country that will lead to civil war," he said.

Thousands of pro-government red shirts began their new rally yesterday and many of them held aloft Yingluck's portrait.

Red-shirt leader Korkaew Pikulthong said the rally might continue for one month.

Surachai Liengboonlertchai, who on Friday was elected to become the new Senate Speaker, said he would call an informal meeting of senators tomorrow in a bid to find a solution for the country.

In a related development, Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said the country's political deadlock must be solved through legal means.

"A military coup will not end the conflict. A coup will attract a lot of criticism. The conflict must be resolved through a legal framework," he said.

Anti-government protesters set up roadblocks yesterday in an attempt to pressure authorities to resolve the crisis.

They blocked roads and laid siege to the seat of government, the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order, and television stations.

Some tourists were forced to abandon taxis and walk to Don Muang Airport.

 

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