The leader of Thailand’s anti-government protests called for a nationwide demonstration on Monday, Dec. 9, and said marches would end that day if they failed to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
“We will win by drawing a huge crowd,” protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told supporters in Bangkok late yesterday. Two previous calls for for civil servants to join the rallies failed to draw significant support.
Suthep, a former member of the opposition Democrat party, is seeking to replace Thailand’s democratic system with a council consisting of “good people” from a cross-section of society as part of a strategy to dismantle the political network of Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, whose allies have won every election in the country since Thaksin was deposed in a 2006 coup.
“If you are happy as Thaksin’s slaves, you should just stay home” Suthep said. “We will win this without any more death and injury.”
Thailand’s security forces offered no resistance to the protesters’ attempts to enter the police headquarters and Yingluck’s offices this week to avoid clashes that may have reignited opposition to the government.
After two days of violent clashes in Bangkok last weekend, the police allowed demonstrators to hold what they called “symbolic” rallies inside Government House and the national police headquarters. Suthep has refused Yingluck’s offers to negotiate, and has said the rallies won’t end even if the premier steps down or dissolves parliament. Yingluck has said the demand for an unelected assembly was “unimaginable” under the country’s existing constitution.
The rallies began more than a month ago to oppose a proposed amnesty law that Yingluck’s critics said would benefit her brother. Thaksin has lived in self-imposed exile since fleeing abuse of power charges in 2008, and has helped guide policy from abroad since Yingluck led the Pheu Thai party to victory in a 2011 election.
After the amnesty legislation was rejected by the Senate last month, the protesters switched their goal to dismantling the political network of Thaksin, who was accused of corruption and showing disrespect for the monarchy when in power. Parties linked to the former premier have won the past five elections on support from voters in northern and northeastern provinces.
Suthep was a former deputy premier with the opposition Democrat party, which hasn’t won a national poll in more than 20 years. He faces murder charges for his role in helping to oversee a deadly crackdown on supporters of Thaksin in 2010 when the Democrats were in power. Courts issued two warrants for his arrest this week, including one on a charge of insurrection, which carries a penalty of life imprisonment or death.
“I don’t want you to risk facing tear gas and rubber bullets anymore,” Suthep said yesterday. “Victory is not based on how many people die. It is time to fix the end of this. On Monday, Dec. 9, all of this should end,” he said.
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