BANGKOK — There is a lull on the streets of Thailand's capital after weeks of demonstrations against the government. But protest leaders are not relenting on their demand the prime minister immediately step aside, despite new elections scheduled for February 2.
Just minutes before she boarded a Royal Thai Army jet for a visit to Chiang Mai, caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, speaking to foreign media in an air base hangar in the capital, expressed confidence the military would not depose her.
“It [carrying out military coups] does not solve any problems. So that’s why I don’t think in the current situation no one wants to take any violent [method] to the country any more. So we need to have the reconciliation. That will be one objective that we should go for,” she said.
Her opponents, including the Bangkok middle class and those who strongly support the monarchy, said reconciliation was not possible as long as Yingluck was at the helm of the government. They believe the real power behind her is her brother in voluntary exile.
Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra cannot return home unless he wants to begin serving a two-year prison term for a corruption conviction.
Meanwhile, some members of Yingluck’s caretaker Cabinet are calling for police to serve an arrest warrant on a key protest leader, former deputy prime minister Suthep Taugsuban. Besides demanding the loyalty of civil servants, he has requested leaders of the powerful military and the police meet with him by Thursday evening.
Yingluck said it was up to the police to decide whether to meet Suthep or arrest him.
“If the country is just run without the law, no one applies the law enforcement, I don’t think we can have the stability of the government or even for Thailand,” she said.
Suthep, who has quit the opposition Democrat Party, said he was not seeking personally to take over the government. He has been leading calls for a “people’s revolution” and said it was the caretaker prime minister whom police should arrest for insurrection, not him.
Suthep and the others who have been marching on the streets for weeks insist that fresh elections will not dislodge Thaksin’s influence nor alleviate pervasive corruption.
Parties allied with Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon, have won every general election in Thailand since 2001.
The governing party enjoys strong rural support in the northern part of the country, contributing to a landslide victory for Yingluck’s party in the 2011 election, which was widely regarded as free and fair.