Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said it was alarmist of
the U.S. embassy to advise its citizens on Friday to stock up on two
weeks' supply of food and water ahead of what protest leaders say
will be a prolonged siege of Bangkok.
"Maybe they worry too much ... People will live their normal life.
Don't be afraid of things that will happen because we try to control
the situation," he said.
Demonstrators led by former opposition politician Suthep Thaugsuban
aim to paralyze the capital for between 15 and 20 days by blocking
seven main intersections, causing gridlock in a city clogged with
traffic at the best of times.
The turmoil is the latest episode in an eight-year conflict that
pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist establishment against the
mostly poorer, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former
premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
The protesters want to suspend what they say is a fragile democracy
destabilized by Thaksin, whom they accuse of nepotism and
corruption. They want to eradicate the political influence of his
family by altering electoral arrangements in ways they have not
spelt out, along with other political reforms.
Thaksin was ousted by the military in 2006 and sentenced to jail in
absentia for abuse of power in 2008 but he still looms large over
Thai politics, the dominant force behind his sister's administration
from his self-exile in Dubai.
The authorities say they will deploy more than 14,000 troops and
police on Monday, including police at the main airport, to maintain
order in the streets.
Rumors of an impending coup have intensified. The army has staged or
attempted 18 coups in 81 years of on-off democracy, but it has tried
to tried to remain neutral this time and its chief, Prayuth
Chan-ocha, has publicly refused to take sides.
The government has repeatedly played down talk of a military
intervention but said on Friday if there was one, it would counter
it. "We already have a plan ...," said Surapong, offering no
He said the government would operate during the shutdown from backup
locations at the national police headquarters and at an army base in
the north of Bangkok.
He said Yingluck would not relocate her government to other
provinces. She heads a caretaker cabinet after calling a snap
election in December.
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Polling is set for February 2, but the Election Commission said on
Friday the government should consider pushing back the date.
It said some candidates had been unable to register in 28 districts
in the south — a stronghold of the anti-Thaksin protesters — and
that could delay the reopening of parliament if there were not
enough lawmakers elected to meet the quorum of 95 percent of the
seats in the house.
The protesters have rejected the election, demanding that the
government step down to be replaced by an unelected "people's
The courts may play a part in forcing the government out, as legal
cases are building up against Yingluck and her allies.
The country's anti-corruption body pressed charges on Tuesday
against 308 lawmakers, mostly from her Puea Thai party, for trying
to make the Senate a fully elected chamber, which a court ruled
illegal in November.
Puea Thai officials have expressed concern the government's enemies
might be plotting a judicial coup and accuse the courts of bias.
They say they are alarmed at the speed with which such matters are
being processed, in contrast to cases against opposition figures,
including protest leader Suthep, that have languished in the courts
"They (the protesters) want to grab power unconstitutionally ... but
the Constitutional Court ruled that there was no case (to answer
against that)," Deputy Prime Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana told
foreign media on Friday.
"In this Constitutional Court there are some judges ... who had an
explicit role against the government in 2006," he added, referring
to when Thaksin was toppled.
The judiciary has intervened several times in the past to throw out
governments linked or allied to Thaksin.
(Editing by Alan Raybould and Clarence Fernandez)
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