Yingluck Shinawatra tells protesters to vent anger at polls

Prime minister urges opponents to vent anger at polls, not on streets

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 1:07pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 10:13am

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra urged anti-government protesters yesterday to vent their anger against her at the ballot box, insisting elections were the best way to solve the country's deepening political crisis.

Yingluck has faced weeks of mass street demonstrations seeking to force her elected government from office and install an appointed "people's council" in its place.

The protesters aim to rein in the political dominance of Yingluck's billionaire brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whom they accuse of controlling the government from self-exile.

Yingluck hosted talks yesterday to discuss a proposal by the election commission to postpone the polls, but the opposition as well as the kingdom's ostensibly independent election commissioners refused to attend.

While she did not completely rule out a delay, Yingluck reiterated her concerns that the constitution did not allow a postponement of the February 2 polls.

"If people don't want this government they should go out and vote," she said.

Many of her opponents, who include much of the royalist establishment, do not want the polls to go ahead, fearing they will only return the Shinawatra family or its allies to power.

They say electoral reforms are needed before a vote is held in at least a year's time, but deny they are seeking to suspend the country's fragile democratic system.

Demonstrators vowed to keep up their efforts to oust Yingluck with their self-styled "Bangkok Shutdown" by occupying key intersections in the city.

Tensions flared overnight after two people were slightly wounded in a shooting by unknown gunmen at an anti-government rally in Bangkok's commercial district, while a small blast shook a house owned by the opposition leader's family.

"The two incidents are a signal that the people's revolution has almost succeeded," rally leader Suthep Thaugsuban said.

Armed provocateurs have a history of trying to stir tensions in the politically polarised kingdom, and several people - including a policeman - have been killed by unidentified assailants since the protests began more than two months ago.

Late on Tuesday a small bomb or a firecracker was hurled at a house belonging to the family of opposition leader and former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Nobody was injured.

Protesters blocked key intersections in the capital for a third straight day, but there was more traffic on the roads, in a possible sign the attempted shutdown was losing momentum.

Suthep threatened on Tuesday to take the prime minister and several cabinet ministers captive if they did not resign.

While he is renowned for his blustery rhetoric, the threat reflects an air of impunity surrounding rally leaders, who have not been detained despite warrants for their arrest.

Video: Two wounded as shots fired on Bangkok protest