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Thai PM Calls Opposition Demands Unconstitutional

  • VOA News

Thailand's prime minister said she cannot comply with demands by the anti-government opposition because they are unconstitutional.

In a televised news conference on Monday, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra confirmed that she met with anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban late Sunday. She said the meeting was held under the auspices of the military, which has maintained that it is neutral in the conflict.

She told reporters that Suthep's demands that she resign, dissolve parliament and turn the government over to an unelected "people's council" were not possible under the law.

The prime minister said she was willing to do anything she could to make people happy, but what she could do must be legal under the constitution.

Video clip: PM Shinawatra comments

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Her comments came as police continued to fire tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets at thousands of protesters trying to seize government buildings in Bangkok.

The protesters had set Sunday as "Victory Day" to topple Yingluck's government, but failed to achieve their goal of seizing the prime minister's office at Government House or occupying state buildings.

The demonstrations have largely been peaceful, but tensions rose late Saturday and early Sunday after rival groups clashed in a northeastern Bangkok neighborhood, where a large pro-government rally was being held in a stadium. Dozens were wounded, and unidentified gunmen shot and killed four people.

Later, an estimated 30,000 people tried to force their way into the government's heavily-fortified headquarters, took control of a state broadcaster and occupied Ramkhamhaeng University.

Several of Bangkok's biggest shopping malls have been closed as a precaution against the violence.

Protest leader Suthep urged government workers to strike Monday. His comments were televised live on almost every station, including state-owned Thai PBS, which agreed to broadcast the speech after protesters surged into its compound.

Opposition leaders have proposed an alternative to the country’s democracy - a vaguely defined people’s council made up of representatives from many professions - and vowed to take over every ministry until Yingluck resigns.

The prime minister survived a no-confidence vote in parliament Thursday. She refuses to quit and has called for dialogue to resolve the situation.

The conflict pits Bangkok's urban middle class and royalist elite against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister ousted in a 2006 military coup.

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

The street protests are the largest in Thailand since 2010, when more than 90 people were killed in a military crackdown on an opposition protest.
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