Thailand braces for more anti-government protests

Dec. 22, 2013 at 10:27 PM   |   Comments

BANGKOK, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Protesters in Thailand followed a large rally Sunday with a warning Monday for the government not to proceed with preparations for upcoming elections.

Protesters numbering in the tens of thousands held rallies Sunday in Bangkok in continuation of their weeks-long effort to oust the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Sunday's action came as the government and the election commission prepared to register candidates for the elections set for Feb. 2, even though the main opposition Democrat Party has reportedly pledged to boycott the polls.

The Yingluck government has said reforms would come after the elections, but the protesters want the change instituted prior to the polls.

Sunday's protests included rallies outside the home of the prime minister and in the city's main shopping areas and intersections, the BBC reported.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban asked protesters to move to the Thai-Japanese stadium, where the election commission was scheduled Monday to begin registration of party-list candidates, the Bangkok Post reported.

Vowing to stop the commission's work, Suthep warned the government and election authorities the country must first embark on reforms.

"If the government and the EC still insist on the election, they are challenging the will of the people. They will face us," he said, the Post reported.

The Bangkok Nation quoted protest leaders as saying they would prepare for indefinite rallies in the nation's capital if Yingluck remained in power.

The embattled prime minister dissolved parliament Dec. 9 and scheduled elections for February. Since then, she has toured the north and northeast sections of the country to rally support for her Pheu Thai party.

Sunday's protests drew an estimated 150,000 supporters at its peak, national security head Lt. Gen. Paradon Patthanathabut told CNN. Earlier, the protesters had been occupying various government and ministry offices.

Yingluck Shinawatra has said she will stay in office until the elections. The protesters had been insisting the elections be overseen by a "people's council" instead of her caretaker government.

Yingluck's Pheu Thai party came to power after winning a massive victory in the 2011 and the next elections were not due until 2015.

Opponents maintain the Yingluck government is corrupt, has abused its authority and violated the law of good governance and is controlled by her brother Thaksin -- a former premier and a telecommunications billionaire who who has lived in exile since he was ousted in a coup in 2006. Thaksin is accused of influencing policies through his sister's government. The government has denied those allegations.

However, Thaksin remains popular in the rural heartland, which had benefited from the populist policies during his regime.

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