Parts of Bangkok brought to a standstill as tens of thousands of protesters attempt to force out Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra

 

Asia Correspondent 

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters brought parts of Bangkok to a standstill as part of an attempt to shut down the city and force the resignation of Thailand’s prime minister.

Demonstrators blocked a number of major intersections in the city as they sought to make Bangkok ungovernable and force Yingluck Shinawatra to leave. As thousands of protesters took up positions on Monday, the police allowed them to do so, trying to avoid confrontations that could lead to bloodshed.

Ms Yingluck, who already called a new election in an attempt to placate the protesters, offered to meet their leaders on Wednesday to discuss the timing of the poll, which the main opposition party has said it will boycott.

Speaking from Bangkok, deputy prime minister Pongthep Thepkanchana told The Independent: “The protesters demand many things and they also change their demands from time to time.”

He added: “If we have a chance to listen to them we can know their point. We were planning to invite them as well but we have been told they will not participate.”

Indeed, the protesters’ leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, has said he had no intention of backing down and repeated his call for the premier to resign immediately.

“Don’t ask me how long this occupation will last,” Mr Suthep said in a speech to supporters, according to the Reuters news agency. “We will not stop until we win.”

The stand-off is the latest twist in an eight-year conflict that has pitted opponents of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra against those who support him.

The two sides cannot be neatly pigeon-holed but supporters of Mr Thaksin have tended to be rural Thais, especially from the north and east, and some elements of Bangkok’s working class. On the other side is a combination of middle-class Bangkok residents, former army officers and elements of the so-called establishment that surrounds the Thai royal family.

Mr Thaksin was ousted by the military in 2006 and sentenced to jail in absentia for abuse of power in 2008. But from his base in Dubai, he still retains huge influence over Thai politics. His younger sister, Ms Yingluck, was elected to power in a convincing win in the summer of 2011.

Eight people, including two police officers, have been killed and scores wounded in violence between protesters, police and government supporters since the campaign against Ms Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party-led government started in November last year. Seven protesters were shot and injured by gunmen over the weekend.

Yet so far, the Bangkok “shutdown” has been reasonably peaceful and reports suggested that for most of the 10m residents of the country’s capital, life went on largely as normal. Whether this remains so is yet to be seen. Given that the protesters say they will not participate in elections until a series of reforms are carried out, analysts see very little room for manoeuvre.

“The campaign by anti-government protesters to derail the 2 February election raises prospects of widespread political violence, and the scope for peaceful resolution is narrowing,” said a report published on Monday by the International Crisis Group. “Protests may aim to provoke a military coup, or encourage a judicial coup.” 

The 64-year-old Mr Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister, stood down last year from his position with the opposition Democrat party to lead the protests. Both Mr Suthep and former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva face murder charges over their role in a 2010 crackdown on pro-Thaksin supporters that left more than 90 people dead. They have denied the accusations.

Mr Suthep’s stated goal is to eradicate the influence of the Shinawatra family on Thai politics. He says Mr Thaksin and his family are guilty of corruption and nepotism. The protest leader has said there is no point having an election until a series of reforms, including an overhaul of the electoral system, are carried out.

Mr Pongthep, the deputy prime minister, said the government was open to considering all sorts of reforms. But he that the result of a general election should not be ignored, even if as many as one million people disagreed with the outcome. He said giving into such demands would amount to “a Coup d’etat”.

He added: “We are trying to uphold democracy.”

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices