Thailand's polarized politicians have been unable to forge a
compromise over a nearly decade-long split between the royalist
establishment and a populist former telecommunications tycoon, whose
sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted as prime minister on
Her sacking by the Constitutional Court for nepotism followed six
months of anti-government protests that have unnerved investors,
frightened away tourists and dented growth in Southeast Asia's
Yingluck's supporters have derided her removal as a "judicial coup".
Her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted in
a military coup in 2006.
"We will continue to protest until this country returns to the
democratic process," Jatuporn Prompan, the leader of "red shirt"
activist supporters of Thaksin and Yingluck, told reporters at the
A day after Yingluck was thrown out of office she was indicted by an
anti-corruption agency for negligence over a rice subsidy scheme
aimed at helping farmers that ran up huge losses. The upper house
Senate is expected to impeach her for that, which would result in a
five-year ban from politics.
But Yingluck's Puea Thai party still runs a caretaker government and
is hoping to organize a July 20 election that it would probably win.
Anti-government protesters want the government out, the election
postponed and reforms to end Thaksin's influence.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy premier in a
government run by the pro-establishment Democrat Party, called his
supporters out onto the streets of Bangkok on Friday for what he
says will be a final push to get the government out and install an
unelected "people's council" to oversee reforms aimed at excluding
Thaksin from politics.
Protesters held rallies and blocked some main roads on Saturday but
there were no reports of violence. Both the pro- and anti-government
camps have armed activists within their ranks and the rival protests
this weekend, even though they are far apart, have raised fears of
"The caretaker government is unlawful, which means at this stage,
Thailand has no real government to run the country," Suthep told
reporters at a rally on Saturday.
He called on the upper house Senate, the judiciary and Election
Commission to appoint a neutral prime minister and cabinet.
"WILL NOT STAND FOR IT"
Jatuporn said Suthep's proposal was "impossible".
[to top of second column]
"It is clear that Suthep thinks there is no government ... that he
is looking to the Senate to install a neutral prime mister. This is
illegal," he said.
"If they install an interim prime minister, we will escalate our
fight for sure. We will not stand for it," Jatuporn told Reuters.
Thaksin won huge support in the north and northeast with pro-poor
policies and he or his loyalists have won every election since 2001.
But his enemies say he buys votes and they want to change the
electoral rules before new polls to try to stop his party winning
Thaksin lives in self-exile to avoid a jail term handed down in 2008
over corruption, but has been a major influence over his sister's
A new Senate speaker, appointed on Friday, has called for a session
of the assembly on Monday.
The army, which has staged numerous coups since the end of absolute
monarchy in 1932, has stayed out of the turmoil but substantial
violence on the streets would raise the possibility of military
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, the world's longest-reigning monarch,
has stepped in to defuse previous crises but has not commented on
this one since it blew up late last year.
The divide between the poor and what they see as the establishment
elite represents a collapse of a traditional order in Thailand at a
time when people have begun to broach the hitherto taboo topic of
An undercurrent of the political crisis is deep anxiety. Crown
Prince Vajiralongkorn does not command the same devotion as his
(Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Nick Macfie and Clarence
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.