The protesters, backed by the Thai elite and Bangkok's middle
class, want to force through political reforms before the snap
election called by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Their aim is
to eradicate the influence of Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother
and the power behind her government.
Democrat lawmakers resigned from parliament this month to join the
street protests led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a deputy prime minister
under Abhisit until 2011.
Some agree with his call for reforms to be implemented before
another election can be held. But others believe their party,
Thailand's oldest, should respect the democratic process and take
part in the election, called for February 2.
"There will be no conclusion today as to whether the Democrat Party
will run," Abhisit told reporters as the two-day meeting was drawing
to an end. "We are tired enough from meeting today on other
The Democrats must decide by December 27 if they want to register
for the vote.
"Abhisit's dilemma is he could be in big trouble with the protesters
if he does go ahead with elections as most protesters are from his
constituency," said political analyst Kan Yuenyong at the Siam
Intelligence Unit think-tank.
"Abhisit is in a tough position because his inclination would be to
boycott no matter what, as his party is bound to lose the election.
Others in his party want to restructure the Democrats and feel
duty-bound to run on February 2," Kan said.
"There is a power struggle going on and Abhisit, who has been the
party's poster boy for so long, is trying to exert control over a
fractured Democrat Party."
Thaksin is a former prime minister who was ousted by the military in
2006 after a series of election victories won with the support of
the urban and rural poor, whose living standards he raised through
cheap healthcare and other policies.
The Puea Thai Party of Yingluck Shinawatra, who is caretaker prime
minister until the election, is well placed to win again because of
Thaksin's bedrock of support in the populous, rural north and
She won a landslide victory in 2011. Both that campaign and her
subsequent administration have been heavily influenced by Thaksin
even though he chooses to live in exile in Dubai because he faces a
jail sentence for abuse of power handed down in 2008. He maintains
his trial was politically motivated.
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ARMY STAYS NEUTRAL
Suthep's program remains vague and it is unclear how long it would
take his proposed "people's council" to implement any reforms.
He wants to wipe out vote-buying and electoral fraud and has also
promised "forceful laws to eradicate corruption", decentralization,
the end of "superficial populist policies that enable corruption"
and the reform of "certain state agencies such as the police force".
Suthep's protest gained impetus in early November after Yingluck's
government tried to push through a political amnesty bill that would
have allowed Thaksin to return home a free man.
The politically powerful military has rebuffed Suthep's call for it
to intervene on his side and has offered to help hold a "fair and
clean" election next year.
The military has staged or attempted 18 coups over the past 80
years, intervening in politics in support of the establishment,
which includes royalists and old-money families that have backed the
Military sources say Suthep is backed by two powerful retired
generals, a former defense minister, General Prawit Wongsuwan, and
former army chief General Anupong Paochinda. Both have a history of
enmity with Thaksin and remain influential in the military
As deputy premier under Abhisit, Suthep authorized a military
crackdown to end weeks of anti-government protests by Thaksin's
supporters in central Bangkok in 2010. Scores of protesters died and
both Abhisit and Suthep have been charged with murder in connection
with the crackdown.
(Writing by Alan Raybould; editing by Robert Birsel)
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