News / Asia

    Thai PM Calls Opposition Demands Unconstitutional

    • An anti-government protester throws back a tear gas canister fired by riot police in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 1, 2013.
    • An anti-government protester cleans his eyes with salt water solution after riot police fired tear gas to the protesters in Bangkok.
    • Police line up to thwart any attempt to occupy their headquarters in Bangkok. (Steve Herman/VOA)
    • An anti-government protester gets ready to throw back a tear gas canister fired by riot police in Bangkok.
    • Anti-government protesters take cover during clashes with police near the Government house in Bangkok.
    • Anti-government protesters use self-made barricade against the water cannons and tear gas fired by riot police in Bangkok.
    • Police move behind their shields as they clash with anti-government protesters near the Government house in Bangkok.
    • An anti-government protester atop a loudspeaker truck calling on the prime minister to "get out" in Bangkok. (Steve Herman/VOA)
    • Police behind razor wire at their headquarters in Bangkok (Steve Herman/VOA)
    • Those protesting want to rid the country of what they say is the lingering influence of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. (Steve Herman/VOA)
    • A crowd listening to an anti-government speech at and above a major Bangkok intersection (Steve Herman/VOA)
    • Tens of thousands take to Bangkok's streets demanding the prime minister's ouster. (Steve Herman/VOA)
    Thai Protests Intensify in Bangkok
    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


    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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