Protesters surround Thai PM's office - Asia - World - The Independent

Protesters surround Thai PM's office

More than 20,000 red-shirted protesters ringed the Thai prime minister's office today, demanding the government resign and scoffing at its handout of cheques to millions of low-income workers as a buy off.

The demonstration began shortly after the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva began doling out 2,000 baht ($55) cheques to millions of Thais to stimulate an economy battered by the global financial crisis.

The demonstrators, followers of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, say Abhisit's government came to power through illegal means and are demanding a dissolution of parliament and elections.

"Is he (Abhisit) trying to buy us off?" said a protest leader, Nattawut Sai-kua. "It is not going to work. We will protest until this illegitimate government is gone."



The "red-shirts," as they are commonly known because of their favored color, said they planned to demonstrate at Government House for at least three days but have promised not to enter the compound. Their earlier protests have been generally peaceful.



About 10,000 police and soldiers were deployed for the protest, said Metropolitan Police Commander Lieutenant General Worapong Chiwpreecha, who estimated the number of demonstrators at more than 20,000.



The so-called "help-the-nation" dole-out scheme targets over nine million people earning less than 15,000 baht ($424) a month.



"What we intend to do is get the economy through this very difficult period," Abhisit said after handing out the first cheque to a teacher at the launch of the 18 billion baht ($509 million) programme. "We need to get money quickly into the system and this is the quickest way."



Thailand has been hit with its worst economic downturn since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Southeast Asia's second largest economy grew 2.6 per cent in 2008. But it is expected to contract 2.5 per cent this year, as the country's crucial export sector has slid four months straight.



Stores and shopping complexes were quick to jump in, hoping to attract cheque recipients with special deals.



"The cheque is valued 20 per cent higher if you cash it in at our store," said Chamnan Metapreechakul, senior marketing director for the Mall Group, one of Thailand's largest mall operators. "We expect people to spend it because it's not large enough to save."



Chamnan said the stores have created baskets of products worth 2,200 baht ($61) for those who do not want to think too much about how to spend their windfall.



At the Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food chain, a cheque can be exchanged for store coupons with 20 pieces of chicken thrown in for free.



"It feels good that I am spending to save the country. What an odd concept!" said Narisara Songsawang, a 36-year-old clerk.



The programme is expected to increase economic growth by 0.2 percentage points, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavenij said yesterday.



The first lot of 5.5 million cheques issued today will be followed by 1.2 million in late March and the rest in early April.



Some said they planned to save the money for hard times.



"You watch the news and people are getting laid off daily. I think I will save it in case my husband is the next one to lose his job," said Ponnapa Sintanee, a 38-year-old mother of three. She earns 12,000 baht ($340) a month as a school teacher.



Although the one-time measure was welcomed by many, some criticised it for targeting only about a third of the country's labour force who are registered with the Social Security Fund. Those in the informal sector, including farmers and self-employed people, are not eligible.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
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

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week