Thai PM offers election to end political crisis

Agence France-Presse

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Yingluck Shinawatra renews her offer of elections if the protesters agree to respect the democratic process

DISSOLVING PARLIAMENT. Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra says she will dissolve parliament after weeks of anti-government protests. AFP / Pornchai Kittiwongsakul

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand’s embattled premier said Sunday, December 8, she was willing to call an election to end the political crisis gripping the country – but only if protesters seeking her overthrow accept the result.

Bangkok is bracing for another major anti-government demonstration on Monday, December 9, with protest leaders vowing a final showdown in efforts to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and curb the political influence of her brother Thaksin.

The kingdom has been rocked by several episodes of political bloodshed since Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon-turned-premier, was ousted by royalist generals in a coup 7 years ago.

His sister’s government has been shaken by more than a month of rolling rallies by demonstrators, sometimes numbering in their tens of thousands, who want to suspend the country’s democracy in favor of an unelected “People’s Council”.

Yingluck on Sunday renewed her offer of elections if the protesters – a mix of royalists, middle class Thais and other Thaksin opponents – agree to respect the democratic process.

“The government is ready to dissolve the house if the majority wants it,” she said in a televised address, noting that under the kingdom’s laws an election would have to be held within 60 days.

“If protesters or a major political party do not accept that or do not accept the result of the election, it will just prolong the conflict,” she said.

The protest leaders have said that they would not be satisfied with new elections, leaving the two sides locked in a stalemate that risks scaring off foreign investors and tourists.

“An unelected government would affect the country’s reputation and stability,” Yingluck warned. “If protesters want that, it should be asked whether it is the desire of the majority.”

Tensions remain high in the kingdom following several days of street clashes last week between police using tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets against rock-throwing demonstrators.

The unrest has left 5 people dead and more than 200 injured in Bangkok.

Demonstrators and police in Bangkok have observed a temporary truce since Wednesday for the 86th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is treated as a near-deity by many Thais.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has called for a final push on Monday to bring down the government, describing it as “judgment day”.

The former deputy premier, who now faces an arrest warrant for insurrection, has vowed to surrender to the authorities unless enough people join the march to the government headquarters.

Thailand’s political conflict broadly pits a Bangkok-based middle class and royalist elite backed by the military against rural and working-class voters loyal to Thaksin.

The former premier went into exile in 2008 to avoid jail for a corruption conviction which he says was politically motivated.

The government’s own “Red Shirt” supporters plan their own rally on Tuesday in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya north of Bangkok. –

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