Thai PM says elections will be held as announced

Jan. 15, 2014 at 3:45 PM
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BANGKOK, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Protesters in Thailand shut down portions of the capital for a third day Wednesday in a bid to bring down a government they say is corrupt.

Thailand's prime minister, battling weeks of anti-government protests seeking her resignation, said despite the protests, the Feb. 2 elections would go on as scheduled.

The thousands of protesters, who have shut down vast sections of Bangkok in their opposition to the elections being overseen by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's caretaker government, dug in Wednesday with their "Bangkok shutdown," designed to show the government has lost legitimacy.

The prime minister, who has refused to step down, participated in a meeting in the capital's air force auditorium with representatives of 37 parties to consider the election commission's recommendation that elections be postponed, Bangkok Nation reported.

"The election will be held on Feb. 2," she announced. "The meeting was united against a delay as suggested by [the commission]. The government and [commission] have no authority to postpone the poll."

Shinawatra's party is all but assured of winning, the New York Times said.

Secretary-General Puchon Nutrawong represented the election commission, the Nation reported. The opposition Democrat Party and the protest movement People's Democratic Reform Committee were invited to the meeting but refused to participate, the Times said.

The protesters, who want the elections to be overseen by a "people's council" instead of Yingluck's caretaker government, insist the various reforms they have been demanding should be put in place before the elections. The government has said the reforms would come after the polls.

Yingluck dissolved Parliament Dec. 9. The protests have been going on since November and sometimes draw tens of thousands.

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. Her opponents maintain her government is corrupt, has abused its authority and is controlled by her brother Thaksin -- a former premier and a telecommunications billionaire who has lived in exile since he was ousted in a coup in 2006, the Times said.

The government has denied those allegations.

The New York Times said in paralyzing Bangkok, the protesters want to show the government's inability to do anything. However, the report said, it is not yet known if they can maintain their momentum, especially if businesses hurt by the protests and inconvenienced residents go against them.

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