Thailand crisis: protesters shut down areas of Bangkok

Anti-government protesters barricade roads in a bid to prevent elections scheduled next month

LAST UPDATED AT 11:38 ON Mon 13 Jan 2014

PROTESTERS in Bangkok have barricaded roads and occupied key road junctions in a bid to oust the government before elections on 2 February. Around 18,000 security personnel have been deployed to maintain order, as protesters call for an unelected "people's council" to replace the government. 

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called the snap elections amid ongoing protests, but the move has failed to calm unrest. The current protests are the latest stage in a 12-year power struggle between supporters and opponents of Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's billionaire brother and fugitive former prime minister.

Who are the protesters?

Many of the protesters come from the middle classes, backed by the country's royalist and bureaucratic elite, says the Wall Street Journal. They are opposed to Yingluck, who they believe is serving as a proxy for her brother Thaksin, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006. He now lives in self-imposed exile overseas, but remains popular with many rural voters. The demonstrations are being led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Thai deputy prime minister who resigned from the opposition Democrat Party to lead the rallies.

What do they want?

The protesters want to overthrow Yingluck's democratically-elected government and replace it with an unelected "people's council". Suthep claims Shinawatra's Pheu Thai party "bought votes" in the last election through irresponsible spending pledges and wants the Shinawatra family to be purged from politics. The main opposition party is now boycotting the 2 February polls and protesters have called for a two-year period without elections in which an appointed committee would reform Thailand's political system. Yingluck has offered to meet protest leaders to discuss potentially delaying the polls but has said she will not accept a "people's council" that was unconstitutional.

How did the protests begin?

They kicked off in November after the country's lower house passed a controversial amnesty bill, which critics said could allow former leader Thaksin to return to Thailand without serving time in jail for corruption. The amnesty bill, proposed by Yingluck's party, was eventually rejected by the Senate. However, anti-government protests have continued, with up to 100,000 taking to the streets to rally last year. At least eight people have been killed since the protests began.

What happened over the weekend?

On Saturday, unknown gunmen opened fire on demonstrators at the main rally site in Bangkok, injuring at least seven people, and on Sunday night an unidentified gunman attacked demonstrators at another protest site, shooting at least one man. Thousands of people are reported to have turned out for today's demonstrations. Protesters say they want to achieve a "shutdown" of the capital. Seven major intersections have been blocked. Protesters also plan to surround key ministries and cut off their power supply in a bid to prevent them from functioning, says the BBC, with around 150 schools told to close.

What next?

It remains uncertain whether or not the 2 February elections will go ahead. Yesterday the Election Commission, an independent body that organises the polls, recommended that the government postpone them. Meanwhile, Bangkok has swirled with speculation that today’s mass rallies could trigger violent confrontation, forcing the army to intervene, says the Wall Street Journal. · 

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We are not "Yellow Shirt" please do a little research before you write it!

Let them fight it out,if third world countries don't want democracy it isn't our problem.they are just changing one form of oppression for another,dynasty politics are disasterous

Who pays them ? I did not see any "elite" on the streets.

If you believe what Jonathan Head wrote, you are a fool.

After reading an shallow article like this, I will be very careful when I read about international news. When millions of people (not hundreds of people) got on the streets (and I was one of them), there must be something going on. These are not elite, but they are those who can no longer tolerate systematic corruption, using popularity and short-term "win-win" benefit as the national steroids. Yes, Thai politicians (and others) are not clean, but now we are talking about mega-project corruptions without allowing a proper "check and balance".

How can democracy work in a corrupted society?

If you look at the corruption index, Thailand's ranking has gone down number 72 (2010) to 102!!! Thanks to this government and their short term steroids to the society.

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