Thai Protests Won’t Lead to Military Coup, Premier Says

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said protests that forced her to call a snap election earlier this week won’t lead to a military coup like the one that ousted her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, in 2006.

“I don’t think the military would do that again,” Yingluck said at a briefing in Bangkok yesterday. “Because the past experience doesn’t give any answer.”

The demonstrators accuse parties linked to Thaksin of vote-buying and Yingluck’s administration of corruption and economic mismanagement. They have called for an appointed committee of “good people” to implement political reforms before handing power to a new government.

The protesters called for a meeting today with military chiefs to urge them to choose sides. Thailand has experienced nine coups and more than 20 prime ministers since 1946, and political clashes between Thaksin’s supporters and opponents since 2006 have killed more than 100 people and sparked arson attacks in Bangkok and an occupation of the nation’s airports.

Yingluck dissolved parliament Dec. 9 and called for an election on Feb. 2, after protests entered a second month and spilled over into violence. Yingluck said her Pheu Thai party hasn’t yet decided whether she will be its candidate for premier.

The caretaker premier said any electoral changes must follow the rule of law and be guided by the constitution. She questioned “who will be involved with the new people’s council” that protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has proposed. “We need to have reconciliation,” she said. “That will be the main objective.”

Amnesty Law

The rallies began in opposition to a proposed amnesty law that Yingluck’s critics said would benefit her brother -- which the government abandoned -- and later morphed into a broader movement to erase Thaksin’s political influence.

Yingluck’s party remains popular in much of Thailand, particularly the rural north and northeast, where Thaksin’s populist policies have spurred growth and awakened political awareness among voters who say their voices were long ignored by governments focused on Bangkok. Thaksin and his allies have won the past five elections, and the opposition Democrat party hasn’t won a national poll in two decades.

Thailand’s Attorney General plans to file lawsuits today against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep, his former deputy, for their role in overseeing a deadly crackdown on Thaksin’s supporters in 2010 when the Democrats were in power. Courts have also issued two warrants for Suthep stemming from the most recent protests, including one on a charge of insurrection, which carries a penalty of life imprisonment or death.

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