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Anti-Government Protests Continue in Thailand

  • VOA News

Anti-government protesters in the Thai capital of Bangkok have wrapped Government House, where Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has her offices, in a massive banner bearing the colors of Thailand's flag.

As protesters continued to camp outside the compound Friday, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters that he would meet with military chiefs on Saturday to discuss his strategy for moving forward.

Yingluck has refused to meet the protesters' demands to step down and hand over power to an unelected council. But she has dissolved parliament and called for early elections in February.

Authorities on Friday formally charged former Thai Prime Minister and leader of the opposition Democrat Party Abhisit Vejjajiva with the murder of two protesters during a military crackdown in 2010.

Prosecutors say Abhisit ordered security forces to shoot on a crowd of mostly unarmed Red Shirt protesters, 90 of whom died during the crackdown. Abhisit denies the charges, saying they are politically motivated.

Ex-deputy prime minister Suthep, who retired from the Democrat Party to lead the protests, is also facing charges related to the crackdown.

Yingluck's Pheu Thai party is expected to easily win the February vote, thanks in part to the popularity of her brother, who still has a large degree of influence on the current government.

The demonstrations were triggered several weeks ago by an amnesty bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return home from exile and avoid a two-year jail term for corruption. The Senate rejected the bill but protests have continued.

Thailand has experienced regular political turmoil in recent years. The conflict pits Bangkok's urban middle class and royalist elite against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and Thaksin.

Some analysts fear Abhisit's trial, which is expected to start in March, could further enflame the anti-government protests, in which five people have already died.