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Thai Protesters Prepare to Shut Down Bangkok

  • Reuters

FILE - Anti-government protesters gather during a rally in central Bangkok, Jan. 5, 2014.

FILE - Anti-government protesters gather during a rally in central Bangkok, Jan. 5, 2014.

Thousands of Thai anti-government protesters will march across Bangkok on Tuesday as a prelude to their big rally starting January 13.

The protesters have announced plans to block government offices and key intersections for days, starting on January 13, in a bid to force out Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and scuttle an election planned for February 2.

On Tuesday, protesters aimed to drum up more support for the big rally next week, which they see as a final fight against the government.

“I think now the people have to fight for victory. We will fight until we win. We have no fear because we have already passed that point,” said Akom Manosoi, a protester from Uthai Thani province.

The protesters accuse Yingluck of being a puppet of her elder brother and former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra, a man they say is a corrupt crony capitalist who used taxpayers' money to buy electoral support with populist give-aways. Thaksin currently lives in Dubai in self-imposed exile to avoid a prison sentence handed down for corruption in 2008. He maintains the charges were politically motivated.

Refusing to participate in the upcoming election or allow it to be held, protesters have instead called for the installation of an appointed ”People's Council.” The council will then oversee a series of reforms, which include changes to the electoral laws, the decentralization of power, and the eradication of any remaining political influence of the Shinawatra family. This is to take place over a period of one year. After this reform agenda has been completed, elections will be held.

Yingluck, 46, is refusing to postpone the poll; the current constitution calls for elections to be held within 60 days of the dissolution of parliament. Any election delay could heighten the uncertainty and make it harder for her caretaker government to function.

Thai markets are expected to face pressure over the growing uncertainty.

The baht hit another four-year low against the dollar on Monday, and the benchmark stock index fell to its lowest since August 2012 during early trade.
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