Tens of thousands of pro-government supporters have rallied in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, warning that choosing an unelected replacement to the recently ousted Yingluck Shinawatra could send the country into “civil war.”
Taking place in the western suburbs of the capital, nearly 3,000 police were brought in to marshall pro-government protesters after it was feared violence could break out between them and anti-government groups.
The Red Shirts, the names given to those that support the current government, travelled from across the country to join together to show their ousted Prime Minister their support.
Holding pictures of the deposed Prime Minister and chanting songs in support of their Puea Thai Party, which still holds power over Thailand’s interim government, they called for an election to take place in July to decide on who will replace Shinawatra.
The rally was set up in light of the Constitutional Court's decision on Wednesday that saw the Prime Minister and nine other governmental ministers removed from their roles in government.
The decision by the court came after it was decided that Shinawatra had acted improperly when she transferred a high-ranking civil servant to a more influential position shortly after taking up her role as the country’s premier.
On Thursday, she was further embroiled in controversy when an anti-corruption agency accused her of being negligent when overseeing a rice subsidy scheme that resulted in massive losses for the country’s coffers.
Anti-government protesters are now calling for even wider-sweeping changes which would see more government officials removed and an unelected person selected as a replacement for the outgoing Shinawatra .
They say that a leader needs to be decided quickly to ensure that the South East Asian nation can remain stable.
The Red Shirts argue that deciding on an unelected person to replace Shinawatra would be undemocratic and that the consequences of the action could lead to a full blown civil war.
Speaking during the rally, Jatuporn Prompan, the party’s chairman said:
"The Red Shirts cannot accept the undemocratic and unconstitutional appointment of a prime minister,"
Adding: "It would be the beginning of a disaster for the country that will lead to civil war," he said.
The decision to rally by the pro-government Red Shirts comes after a week of action by those that oppose the current government and support a move to quickly replace Shinawatra with an unelected leader.
On Friday, the leader of the anti-government Yellow Shirts, Suthep Thaugsuban called out supporters to rally in Bangkok and made a speech to those that had decided to follow his calls.
During the speech he said: ““Thaksin [Shinawatra, brother of Yingluck and former Prime Minister]’s headless puppets have the nerve to appoint a new caretaker prime minister but their action is illegal
“We can almost taste victory. We won’t retreat. We are almost there.”
Today Prompan reacted to Thaugsuban with a similar statement to his Red Shirt supporters saying: "As long as the country's democracy is not safe, we will be here."
The Puea Thai Party – the party of the ousted Prime Minister and her brother the influential former Thai PM and multi-millionaire Thaksin Shinawatra – has not been out of power since 2001 and believes a 20 July election, which it would probably win, is the solution to the current crisis.
But anti-government protesters disagree; they want the election postponed, more government ministers removed and reforms to end Shinawatra influence.
So far the king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has previously stepped in to defuse previous protests between pro and anti-government, has yet to make comment on the protests.
On Thursday a grenade was thrown at the house of one of the judges that was onthe Constitutional Court that decided to remove Shinawatra as Prime Minister - no one was injured.
With both the pro and anti-government protesters having armed activists in their ranks it is feared actions like this could become more frequent and it is believed if a resolution is not reached the number of dead as a result of the protests could be added to.