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January 14, 2014

Anti-government Protesters Camp in Bangkok

by Gabrielle Paluch

Anti-government protesters gathered by the thousands for a second day in Thailand's capital, Bangkok, as part of their plan to shut down the city and oust current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
 
Thousands of protesters slept overnight at the seven main camps throughout the city before embarking on marches to government ministries that they demanded be shut down.
 
While many of the demonstrators are from Bangkok, others traveled far for what they say could be a protracted standoff with the government.
 
Protester Kamporn Saengravi drove more than 700 kilometers from southern Nakhon Si Thammarat Province, parking his van in Bangkok's Lumphini Park and sleeping in a tent alongside three neighbors who accompanied him.

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Kamporn said now that he has come, he will not go back. He will sleep on the street and eat on the street. He said that even though he is more comfortable at home he's happy to be here to fight for his country's future.
 
Protest leader Suthep Thuagsuban, who rejects the government's offer to hold snap elections, addressed crowds on a stage Tuesday, demanding the caretaker prime minister's resignation and warning ministers they should evacuate their children.
 
Suthep said that in two to three days, protesters will close all of the government offices. He further warned that if the government remained steadfast, the protesters would detain the prime minister and other ministers.
 
The prime minister has already dissolved the government and called for snap elections early next month, but protest leaders, joined by the opposition Democrat Party, are boycotting the vote.
 
​​While the prime minister refuses to step down, she has also said she is eager to end the standoff. She spoke with reporters Tuesday and again said she is open to negotiations.
 
Yingluck said she is asking for cooperation and requests all sides to take part in reforms. Whatever needs to be reformed or fixed, she said, including getting rid of corrupted politicians, is on the table. However, she also said her opponents' current actions are keeping the country at a standstill.
 
The protests began late last year when the lower house of parliament approved an amnesty bill that would have paved the way for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, to return from self-exile in Dubai without serving jail time for a 2008 corruption conviction.
 
The Senate defeated the measure, but that did little to appease protesters, who want to expel the Shinawatra family from politics. 
 
Leader Suthep also wants to replace the democratically elected government with a council that he and his allies would appoint. This council would then carry out political reforms prior to holding new elections. The government has rejected that proposal, which many observers said would be a step backward for Thailand’s democracy.