Thai Protests Swell As "People's Coup" Forces Prime Minister Into Hiding

Search form

Thai Protests Swell As "People's Coup" Forces Prime Minister Into Hiding

Thai Protests Swell As "People's Coup" Forces Prime Minister Into Hiding
Mon, 12/2/2013
This article originally appeared on Al Jazeera America

About 30,000 protesters launched a "people's coup" on Thailand's government on Sunday, swarming state agencies in violent clashes, taking control of a state broadcaster and forcing the prime minister to flee a police compound and go into hiding.

But after a day of skirmishes between protesters hurling stones and petrol bombs against riot police who fired back with teargas, the demonstrators failed to breach heavily barricaded Government House, where the office of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is located.

Protests in Bangkok have turned increasingly chaotic and violent in the past several days, leading to at least four deaths and 53 injuries, and prompting the Thai government to urge Bangkok residents to stay indoors from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

But the government's wish for calm has done little to quell protesters, who are demanding that Prime Minister Yingluck step down. The protesters feel she is a figurehead for her brother, former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

In a surprise move, Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the anti-government protests said Sunday that he had met with the prime minister, telling her that he would accept nothing less than her government stepping down.

"If Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra listens to the people's voices and returns the power to the people, we will treat Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra with politeness because we all are good citizens," he said.

Spokesmen for both the prime minister and the army said they were too junior to comment on any meeting.

On Sunday night, small fires burned from homemade gas bombs that landed near police trucks. Protesters pulled at barbed wire fences as others washed teargas from their eyes with bottled water.

Demonstrators have started to up the ante and briefly occupied the headquarters of the army on Friday, urging it to join them in a complex power struggle centered on the enduring political influence of Yingluck's billionaire brother, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

They have for the past week occupied or besieged government offices in what they describe as a civil disobedience campaign. They have vowed to seize the prime minister's offices on Sunday.

Thai protest leader: "Government has no more than three days left"

Prime Minister Yingluck has faced down several legal and institutional challenges in recent weeks from the opposition Democrat Party, many of whose members have taken to the streets with the anti-government protesters.

The protests escalated after her ruling Puea Thai party tried to introduce an amnesty that could have allowed Thaksin's return, and have continued despite the Senate's rejection of the bill.

Puea Thai came to power in 2011 elections on a wave of Thaksin support, after a bloody 2010 military crackdown on Red Shirt protests under the then Democrat-led government left some 90 people dead.

Thaksin is adored by many of the country's rural and urban working class but hated by many southerners, middle-class Thais and the Bangkok elite, who see him as corrupt and a threat to the monarchy.

The protesters have accused the government of acting unlawfully, after senior members of the ruling Puea Thai Party refused to accept a Nov. 20 Constitutional Court ruling that rejected their proposal for a fully elected Senate, which would have boosted the party's electoral clout. Puea Thai says the judiciary has no right to intervene in the legislative branch.

The ruling casts a spotlight on Thailand's politicized courts, which annulled an election won by Thaksin in 2006 on a technicality and later dissolved his Thai Rak Thai Party for electoral fraud. Its next incarnation, the People's Power Party, suffered the same fate. Nearly 150 executives of both parties were banned for five years.

Yellow Shirts

A mix of royalists, southerners and the urban middle class, the government's opponents are collectively called the Yellow Shirt movement and are united by their dislike for Thaksin.

Thaksin, a one-time telecom tycoon lives in self-imposed exile, but he is widely believed to be the real power behind the government of his younger sister Yingluck.

Protesters were demanding the removal of the "Thaksin regime" and the replacement of the government with an unelected "people's council."

Suthep Thaugsuban, the protest leader and a former Thai deputy prime minister, said the demonstrators remained "very upbeat."

"If we demolish the Thaksin regime ... we will set up a people's council, which will come from people from every sector," he said.

The tension heightens a nearly decade-long conflict that broadly pits Thailand's traditional establishment of top generals, royalists and the urban middle class against the mostly rural, northern supporters of Thaksin.

Reporting from the city's center, Al Jazeera's Scott Heidler said the government had made an effort to keep the Red Shirts away from the Yellow Shirts.

"They have kept the two sides separate, mainly because they are very concerned about these protests turning violent," he said.

Turnout was expected to surge in the coming days as organizers seek a final push before celebrations for Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's birthday on Dec. 5, which is traditionally marked in an atmosphere of calm and respect.

The protest organizers have declared Sunday a "day of victory," with plans to gather near the heavily guarded Government House, besiege more important buildings — even Bangkok's zoo — and to tighten their blockade of government ministries.

Originally published by Al Jazeera America

Article Tabs

David Petraeus, prosecuting leakers, whistleblowers, Black Books, Paula Broadwell, Espionage Act, John Kiriakou, Stephen Kim, Identities Protection Act, Wikileaks, Chelsea Manning

The former Army general and CIA director gave highly-classified journals to his onetime lover and lied to the FBI about it – but he only has to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor, with no jail time, thanks to a deal with prosecutors.

An average of 545 people killed by local and state law enforcement officers in the U.S. went uncounted in the country’s most authoritative crime statistics every year for almost a decade, according to a report released on Tuesday.

Black Lives Matter, #BlackLivesMatter, Black Panthers, Black Panther Party, Ferguson protests, Michael Brown, racial injustice, police killings, police violence, police brutality, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Fred Hampton

A half century ago, activists were demanding not only the recognition that black lives matter but also the right to black power.

recycled biofuel, Uptown Oil, Fatbergs, carbon emissions, clean burning fuel, biodiesel

Uptown Oil estimates London could produce around 50 million liters per year of recycled biodiesel, causing a major drop in greenhouse gas emissions. So why is government turning its head?

public banking, public banks, Bank of Canada

Canada’s privatization of public finance in the last 40 years has led to an unprecedented level of debt – now, a scrappy legal case for economic justice is seeking to reverse that.

public banking, public banks, Bank of North Dakota, Ellen Brown

New bedfellows are writing what may be the next chapter in the story of our democracy: a network of public banks to facilitate a lateral, collaborative distribution of affordable credit that challenges Wall Street's control.

Posted 3 days 8 hours ago

Occupy.com's New Original Series: Act Out! Premiers March 4th, Watch the Trailer Now!

Posted 3 days 8 hours ago
Boris Nemtsov, Russia repression, Russia protests, Russian opposition movement, Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin

"If political views are punished this way, then this country simply has no future," Sergei Mitrokhin, an opposition leader, said of Nemtsov's murder.

Posted 3 days 8 hours ago
Charlie Hebdo, ISIS killings, LGBT threats

A human rights commission report warns that anyone believed to be LGBT under the Islamic State control is likely at imminent risk of death.

Posted 3 days 8 hours ago

"Under The Dome," which relates a mother's concerns about the effect of the country’s filthy air on her child, has been compared to Rachel Carson's seminal work "Silent Spring."

Posted 2 days 4 hours ago
union busting, Scott Walker, right to work, Madison protests, Wisconsin AFL-CIO, Wisconsin Citizen Media Cooperative, Wisconsin Jobs Now

Wisconsin unions bussed thousands of workers from around the state on Saturday to demonstrate against the impending adoption of a law to ban private-sector workers from being required to join a union or pay dues.

"Under The Dome," which relates a mother's concerns about the effect of the country’s filthy air on her child, has been compared to Rachel Carson's seminal work "Silent Spring."

Occupy.com's New Original Series: Act Out! Premiers March 4th, Watch the Trailer Now!

To combat the burgeoning wealth inequality that tax loopholes help create, Oxfam says it's essential that European legislators create greater transparency on tax matters.

Forbes Billionaire List, Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg

The 29th annual guide to the globe’s richest found a record 1,826 billionaires with an aggregate net worth of $7.05 trillion – up from $6.4 trillion a year ago.

Sign Up