Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has rejected calls for the
government to resign, as rallies against his administration moved into
their second day. Analysts say
political tensions remain high due to increasing pressure on the
government to call fresh general elections and the ouster of the three-month-old administration.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva
Friday refused to bow to anti-government protest calls for the
government to resign and open the way for fresh general elections.
refusal by Mr. Abhisit came a day after some 35,000 protesters, most
wearing the distinctive red shirts, surrounded the government's main
administration building. But the numbers had fallen away by Friday
afternoon to a few thousand, although more were expected to gather
later at the rally.
The protests have been led by supporters of
deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who now lives in exile after
fleeing Thailand last year in the face of a court case on corruption
Mr. Abhist, leading a six party coalition government,
came to power last December after former coalition partners broke away
from a pro-Thaksin government elected to office in 2007 after a court
decision weakened the then governing party.
Sunai Pasuk, a
representative in Thailand for Human Rights Watch, said the protests
are viewed as a possible step by Thaksin to return to power by
pressuring for fresh general elections. Thaksin remains popular among
the urban poor and rural classes where he built political support
through populist economic policies.
"The protests show a last
attempt by Thaksin supporters to mobilize their force with a very clear
aim that it's not only to overthrow the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva
but to expose a very complicated network of conservative forces that
put Abhisit Vejjajiva into power," said Sunai.
supporters point to the military, elites and business backing the rise
to power of Mr. Abhisit and undermining the former pro-Thaksin
administration. They are also calling on the government to prosecute
leaders of the opposing People's Alliance for Democracy or PAD whose
protests last year included seizure of government house and national
Pasuk says Thaksin has been presenting himself as a political martyr.
presents himself as a democratic icon that was ousted by undemocratic
means by a military coup regardless of the fact that while he was in
power Thaksin was known for violating all basic human rights and
democratic principles," he said. "Now he is presenting himself as a
martyr who vows to resurrect democracy in Thailand which is quite a
But Chris Baker, a commentator and author on
Thai politics and the economy, says the rallies also reflect deep
social divisions in Thai society, often split along economic lines.
red shirts want to make a very clear point about the lack of equity in
the [Thai] justice system," he said. "In some ways they're really are
trying to say that this is not a really very equitable society."
say the rallies are also seen as trying to pressure the government to
make way for amnesties that would include pro-Thaksin politicians
facing bans, as well as the PAD. But Prime Minister Abhisit has ruled
out legislation for national reconciliation.