News / Asia

    Thai Protest Leader Rejects Emergency Decree

    Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban gestures as he leads anti-government protesters marching through Bangkok's financial district, Jan. 23, 2014.
    Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban gestures as he leads anti-government protesters marching through Bangkok's financial district, Jan. 23, 2014.
    VOA News
    Thailand's anti-government protest leader has criticized a recently declared state of emergency in Bangkok and vowed to shut down "every government agency" by the end of the week.

    Suthep Thaugsuban has led 10 consecutive days of protests in the capital, attempting to overthrow what he views as a corrupt government and replace it with an unelected people's council.

    In response, the government declared a 60-day state of emergency, which began on Wednesday. Though officials say they will not break up the protests, the decree gives the government the ability to substantially widen their powers.

    Leading a march Thursday, Suthep said the decree was unnecessary and would not deter the protesters, which he said have the support of the people.

    "Within this week, we will shut down every government agency. Civil servants keep telling us to close their work place. They also want us to close down transportation, but we will not do that. All civil servants now are giving their heart to the side of the people," said Suthep.

    Suthep's initial strategy was to shut down key government ministries in an effort to get Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign. But when the government shifted its operations to alternate facilities, he called for protesters to block key intersections throughout the city.

    • An anti-government protester wears a mask made of "No Vote" stickers as he marches with others through Bangkok, Jan. 31, 2014.
    • Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban greets the crowd as he leads anti-government protesters marching through Bangkok, Jan. 31, 2014.
    • Police try to clear a main street for an anti-government protest march in Bangkok, Jan. 30, 2014.
    • Anti-government protesters with national flags gather for a rally in Bangkok, Jan. 30, 2014.
    • Anti-government protesters hold placards during a march through central Bangkok, Jan. 30, 2014.
    • An anti-government protester holds a national flag in front of a portrait of Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, during a rally, Bangkok, Jan. 29, 2014.
    • Anti-government protesters chain the gate of an office for the Land Transportation Department in Nonthaburi province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Jan. 29, 2014. 
    • Riot police stand guard inside the compound of the Thai Royal Police Club in Bangkok, Jan. 29, 2014. 
    • An anti-government protester plays a guitar near a barricade outside the compound of the Thai Royal Police Club in Bangkok, Jan. 29, 2014. 
    • A girl reacts at an anti-government rally in central Bangkok, Jan. 28, 2014.

    Though clashes with police have been scarce, nine people have been killed in recent weeks, and attacks on anti-government protesters have been increasing.

    Adding to fears the violence may spread, a well-known pro-government leader was shot and wounded in a drive-by shooting in northern Thailand Wednesday.

    Police said "Red Shirt" leader Kwanchai Praipana was shot twice by unknown attackers at his home in the northeast province of Udon Thani.

    The unrest has led some to believe that early elections, set for February 2, should not go ahead as planned. Thailand's Election Commission on Wednesday said it was seeking a ruling from the Constitutional Court on whether it can delay the vote.

    Even before the opposition's decision to boycott the vote, Yingluck's Pheu Thai party was expected to easily win the election, thanks in part to the popularity of her brother, the ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

    Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, remains very influential in Thailand, even though he was convicted of corruption and lives in self-imposed exile. The opposition says Yingluck's government is effectively controlled by Thaksin.

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