Embattled Thai PM Yingluck calls for talks after fleeing Bangkok

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 11:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 10:15am

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the target of protests in Bangkok, has been staying outside the capital and yesterday ruled out resigning despite a series of deadly attacks heaping pressure on her government.

Yingluck (pictured), who attended a trade show in Saraburi province, 100 kilometres north of Bangkok, called for dialogue to resolve a crisis that has dragged on for months, with key intersections in the city blocked by protest camps.

"It's time all sides turned to talk to each other," Yingluck said. "Many people have asked me to resign but I ask: is resignation the answer? What if it creates a power vacuum?"

The protests have been punctuated by gunfire and bomb blasts, including one on Sunday that killed a woman and a young brother and sister.

They are aimed at unseating Yingluck and erasing the influence of her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who is seen by many as the power behind the government.

Yingluck's office would not confirm how long she had been working outside the capital.

She was last seen in public in Bangkok a week ago when anti-government protesters and farmers angry about not being paid under a rice subsidy scheme were trailing her and some of her ministers. She is due to attend a corruption hearing in Bangkok on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said Yingluck would hold a cabinet meeting today. "It is highly likely that we will hold the cabinet meeting outside of Bangkok," he said.

The army, which toppled Thaksin in a 2006 coup, reiterated that it would not interfere in the continuing crisis.

"Somebody has to take responsibility but that doesn't mean soldiers can intervene without working under the framework [of the law]," army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a rare televised address, also calling for dialogue.

Protesters, who disrupted and boycotted this month's general election, have been urged by their leader to target businesses linked to Thaksin and yesterday gathered outside a television station managed by Thaksin's son.