Anti-Thaksin Groups Weigh Protest at Thai Leader’s Offices

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra
Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand's prime minister. Photohrapher: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Thai anti-government protest groups will consider holding a rally at Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s offices, a tactic used during a 2008 campaign that led to the seizure of Bangkok’s airports.

Groups that helped oust governments linked to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 and 2008 met in Bangkok yesterday in a bid to remove his sister, whose party won a parliamentary majority in elections last year. Boonlert Kaewprasit, a retired army general, declared the demonstration a success and said the next one may be held at Government House.

“We will certainly organize another rally to push this government out,” he said in a speech broadcast by TVD satellite television. “There will be many more people at the next rally.”

The protests, organized by groups that supported Thaksin’s ouster in a 2006 coup, represent the most organized push against Yingluck’s 15-month-old government. Tit-for-tat demonstrations by Thaksin’s supporters and opponents since the coup have killed more than 100 people and led to road blockages and arson attacks.

“The spark has been lit, some traction has been found but there are additional forces that have to be deployed,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute for Strategic and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. “And those forces are beyond the anti-Thaksin column and beyond what we saw yesterday -- the role of the judiciary, the role of the military, the role of the palace as we saw in 2008.”

Stocks Drop

Thailand’s benchmark SET Index fell 0.4 percent to 1,276.78 at the midday break, poised for the lowest close in a month. The baht gained 0.1 percent to 30.72 per dollar.

Boonlert said at least 20,000 people attended yesterday’s rally at the Royal Turf Club, which is under royal patronage. He was a classmate of Surayud Chulanont, a former prime minister who is a member of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 19-member Privy Council.

“It is a great success as the number of people coming today are much more than expected,” Tul Sitthisomwong, who heads a group that joined the protest, said by phone. “The purpose is to call the government out. They have proved that there is widespread corruption among them, they allow their close associates to defame the monarchy and they have not fulfilled their election pledges.”

Yingluck Support

Police said the number of demonstrators peaked at about 8,000, the Bangkok Post reported, citing deputy commander Adul Narongsak. Piya Utayo, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police, declined to comment when reached by phone.

“There is no problem and everything goes in line with the democratic system,” Yingluck told reporters today. “It doesn’t affect the government’s work.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung said today the number of demonstrators was higher than he expected. He vowed to avoid using violent measures against protesters while urging them to abide by the law.

“We are not too concerned about the number of people at the rally,” he told reporters today. “The number may be a couple of thousand or a hundred thousand. The government is fine with that as long as they don’t violate the law.”

In 2008, protesters who accused Thaksin’s allies of turning Thailand into a monarchy-free republic occupied Government House for several months before seizing Bangkok’s airports as the military declined to enforce an emergency decree. Queen Sirikit attended the funeral of a protester killed in clashes with police during the demonstrations.

Election Fraud

The airport seizure ended when a court disbanded the Thaksin-linked party for election fraud, leading to a parliamentary vote that resulted in a change of government. Unlike in 2008, Yingluck’s party now controls an outright majority in parliament.

Thaksin has lived overseas since fleeing a jail sentence in 2008 for helping his ex-wife buy land from the government while he served as prime minister, a charge that stemmed from a military-appointed panel after the coup. He denies all wrongdoing and says the charges are politically motivated.

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