News / Asia

Thai Prime Minister Rejects Calls to Step Down

Thailand Political Deadlock Continues As Protests Turn Violenti
December 02, 2013 9:06 PM
Thailand's prime minister says she is open to negotiations to defuse the country's political crisis, but remains unwilling to bow to her opponent's demands to turn over the government to an unelected council. VOA's Steve Herman reports from Bangkok, where Yingluck Shinawatra said the country's influential military will remain neutral in the standoff.
Thailand's prime minister says she is open to negotiations to defuse the country's political crisis, but remains unwilling to bow to her opponents’ demands to turn over the government to an unelected council. Yingluck Shinawatra also says the country's influential military will remain neutral in the standoff.
Bangkok's street rallies, which began weeks ago, have escalated into increasingly violent confrontations as protest leaders vow to topple the government this week.
Outside the prime minister's offices, police fired rubber bullets, tear gas canisters and deployed water cannons to contain the protesters.
Despite the chaos at some rally sites, business in the city largely continued unimpeded Monday and most government workers appeared to ignore the opposition's call for a strike.
But demonstrators remain committed to their cause. Protester Watcharapon Vichayathanatom, says the fact that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s party won an election landslide in 2011 is meaningless.
She said the prime minister’s election resulted from vote buying and buying the votes of politicians. So she may have won the election but millions of people have now come out, so she cannot say any longer that she has the majority of votes.
Yingluck said the opposition is neither asking for her resignation nor for the dissolution of parliament, but rather that the prime minister’s power be returned to the people.
“I don’t know how we can proceed with this offer because this offer does not exist under the practice of this constitutional law,” Yingluck  said.
To some of the protesters, such as Raewat Pampradit, people power - although not clearly defined - is the only solution. He said power must be returned to the people and a people’s council established.
Tight corner 
Political Developments in Thailand

2006: Army overthrows Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
2007: Pro-Thaksin People Power Party wins elections
2008: Anti-Thaksin protesters, known as Yellow Shirts, stage months of demonstrations, briefly paralyze airports. Abhisit Vejjajiva becomes prime minister.
2010: Massive pro-Thaksin "Red Shirt" protests held in Bangkok, dozens killed
2011: Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of Thaksin, elected prime minister
2013: Anti-government protesters hold massive street demonstrations
Thailand has been politically unstable for seven years since Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was deposed in a military coup. But the governing party has won every election since 2001.
Chulalongkorn University political science professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak said the prime minister finds herself in a tight corner even though what the opposition proposes is likely not acceptable to a majority of the electorate.
“It’s a kind of civilian coup led by the protest movement backed by the Democrat Party machinery and representing many minority voters who have been losing the elections in Thailand. They have become fed up, disillusioned with the election system and Thailand electoral democracy,” said Thitinan.
Democracy has long been fragile here with the military conducting 18 coups since the end of absolute monarchy rule in 1932.
Yingluck said the generals will remain neutral. But many observers believe the military will ultimately be the deciding factor, in the days ahead, in whether this government survives.
  • Anti-government protesters throw rocks after riot police fired tear gas at them near the Government House in Bangkok, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • A military medical unit team assists an injured protester after riot police threw a tear gas canister during clashes in Bangkok, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • Anti-government protesters use fans to blow away tear gas as riot police use a water cannon during clashes in Bangkok, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • A Buddhist monk helps an anti-government protester clean his eyes with salt water solution after riot police fired tear gas in Bangkok, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • An anti-government protester throws a tear gas canister towards police from behind a barricade during clashes near the Government House in Bangkok, Dec. 1, 2013.
  • A crowd listens to an anti-government speech at and above a major Bangkok intersection, Thailand, Dec. 1, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • Police stand behind razor wire at their headquarters in Bangkok, Dec. 1, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • An anti-government protester gets ready to throw back a tear gas canister fired by riot police in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 1, 2013.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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Comment Sorting
by: hoan dao from: ha noi
December 02, 2013 11:38 PM
it likes a crisis of belief when the electoral system does not satisfy people. How does this situation go on with the violence rising up everyday? It can not predict.

by: Dorcas from: South Africa
December 02, 2013 11:31 PM
I think the protesters are very unrealistic. They certainly haven't learnt from what happened in Egypt. Forcing a democratically elected leader to step down will always result in more bloodshed. They should at least let her finish her current term in office.

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 02, 2013 8:50 PM
It looks like fair for all people to resolve the parliament and elect a new prime minister. Why protesters and ex-vice PM require neither dissolution nor resignation of PM? Thaksin groups still remains powerful in rural area and they are supposed to win the election again?

by: Thai from: BKK
December 02, 2013 7:35 PM
Steve, You are totally wrong in data and information. We are not sure that you hosted in BKK or in north pole. PM have not rejected the step down. In opposite, She accepted step down but PM step down is not target from protesters.

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