January 14, 2014
Thai Opposition Protest Enters Second Day in Bangkok
Thai opposition protesters have filled Bangkok streets for a second day, vowing to not back down until Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra resigns.
The protests aim to "shut down" the capital. But life continued as usual in most parts of the city Tuesday, though with lighter than normal traffic.
Several thousand protesters gathered outside the customs department, one of several government buildings where the protests forced an early closure. Others blocked key intersections, in an attempt to stop government staff from getting to work.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul says many government ministries are operating from back-up sites.
"Right now, some government offices have been closed. It was only the closure of the buildings, but government services are operating as usual."
One of the demonstrators, Suwisa Rakpong, is confident the government feels the pressure.
"We think this will help (to remove Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from government), though I don't know how stubborn she is. But she'll probably leave."
The protests have been peaceful, with some describing a festival-like atmosphere. But a hardline group has threatened to take over the stock exchange if the prime minister does not step down within days.
Prime Minister Yingluck has dissolved parliament, called for early elections on February 2, and proposed the formation of a national reform council as a way to resolve the months-long political crisis.
On Wednesday, she will meet with protest and political leaders to discuss the election commission's request to postpone the polls until May.
The opposition has said her concessions are not enough. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban vowed Monday to keep the city shut down for as long as necessary.
Suthep has called for a non-elected "people's council" to replace the current government and implement reforms to end corruption and money politics before any new vote takes place.
Analysts say the prime minister's ruling party is likely to win next month's snap election, which the main opposition party plans to boycott.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on Monday said the U.S. is urging all sides to refrain from violence, and it applauds the restraint shown so far by government authorities.
The opposition views Ms. Yingluck as a puppet of her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, convicted of corruption and now lives in self-imposed exile.