World News

Thai PM Will Not Step Down Before Elections

A defiant Thai prime minister has rejected opposition calls to resign, saying she will lead a caretaker government until snap elections are held February 2.

A visibly emotional Yingluck Shinawatra made the announcement Tuesday, a day after she dissolved parliament following more than a month of anti-government protests in the capital, Bangkok.

The Thai leader said in a televised address Monday that she will leave it up to the people to decide the future of the country.

Southeast Asia analyst Andrew Walker of the Australian National University says the Yingluck government enjoys wide support and the opposition wants a non-electoral path to power.

"We have an opposition, represented by the opposition Democrat Party that has lost a series of elections and has now got sick of that and is trying to gain power by an appointed, rather than an elected government."

Opposition Democratic Party leader Suthep Thaungsuban says he will not end the demonstrations until Ms. Yingluck resigns and turns over the seat of government to an unelected "people's council."

Police say more than 140,000 protesters surrounded Government House on Monday, but only a few thousand remained on Tuesday.

Ms. Yingluck says her Cabinet will remain intact, although with limited powers, and she will stay on as caretaker prime minister. Her party says she will run in the new elections.

Opposition lawmakers resigned from parliament en masse on Sunday.

Southeast Asia analyst Edmund Malesky of Duke University, currently in Singapore, says the latest political drama in Thailand is only the latest chapter in a long story of instability.

"It's a state where different groups have different conceptions of what the meaning of democracy means. So you have groups that are calling for majoritarian one-man one-vote and groups that are talking about protections of the minority and due process and people battling over the concept of corruption and whether that should be included in the definition of democracy or not."

At least four people have been killed and many wounded in recent protests. The demonstrations were triggered several weeks ago by an amnesty bill that would have allowed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return home and avoid a two-year jail term for corruption.

The Senate rejected the bill but protests have continued.

Mr. Thaksin, Prime Minister Yingluck's billionaire brother, was ousted in a 2006 military coup.

The conflict pits Bangkok's urban middle class and royalist elite against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Ms. Yingluck and Mr. Thaksin.


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