Thai PM Won't Resign Before Polls 12/10 07:17
BANGKOK (AP) -- Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said Tuesday she would
not resign ahead of national elections set for Feb. 2, 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 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?
"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.
Her brother Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon, was toppled by a
2006 military coup that laid bare a deeper conflict between Thailand's elite
and largely urban middle class on one side, and Thaksin's power base in the
countryside on the other. That base benefited from his populist policies
designed to win over the rural poor.
Ever since, the two sides have been dueling 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 Tuesday that she would remain the interim head of
government until Feb. 2. "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 Feb. 2 and
named Yingluck as caretaker prime minister until then.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who faces an arrest warrant on
insurrection charges, spoke to more than 150,000 followers Monday at a stage
near Yingluck's offices, challenging authorities to "Come get me."
He said 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 the 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 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 neighborhood
peacekeeping forces to take over from police. The protesters have castigated
the police for being zealous defenders of the government.
If we lose to the "Thaksin regime," he said, "we will be their slaves until
Since Tuesday was a national holiday, few civil servants went to work.