An anti-government protester (L) gives instructions to a
fellow protester on how to wave a huge Thai flag near the
Government House in Bangkok. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Thailand's beleaguered government has warned people to
stay away from anti-government protests, saying it has to step
up security as the two sides in a lengthy political crisis
squared off over who is running the country.
The caretaker government loyal to ousted prime minister
Yingluck Shinawatra is clinging to power and to the hope of
an election in July to restore its authority.
But the government's enemies deride its legitimacy and are
calling on the upper house of parliament, the courts and the
Election Commission to appoint a new prime minister.
The head of the government team overseeing security during
months of demonstrations against Yingluck and her brother,
ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, said protest leader
Suthep Thaugsuban's call for a new prime minister was
"We would like to warn all Thais to stay away from the
protest sites as we have to tighten our security forces in a
bid to avert a crisis," Tharit Pengdit, chief of the
Department of Special Investigation, told reporters.
Protesters have used guns and grenades to resist police
efforts to clear them off the streets and the government has
generally sought to avoid confrontation.
But Tharit's warning could be a sign that the government is
feeling increasingly embattled, especially after Yingluck's
sacking by the Constitutional Court for nepotism on
Wednesday, and is trying to assert its authority.
The sometimes violent protests against Yingluck and Thaksin
have sapped investor confidence, frightened off tourists and
dented growth in Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.
A day after Yingluck and nine of her cabinet members were
thrown out of office she was indicted by an anti-corruption
agency for negligence over a rice subsidy scheme that ran up
big losses. The Senate is expected to impeach her for that,
which could result in a ban from politics.
But Yingluck's Puea Thai party still runs the caretaker
government and it is hoping to organise an election,
tentatively scheduled for July 20, that it would probably
Thaksin or his loyalists have won every election since 2001.
But his enemies say he is corrupt and buys votes and they
want an appointed "people's council" to oversee electoral
rule changes to stop the Shinawatras from winning.
Thailand has been divided for years by a struggle between the
royalist establishment and Thaksin, a former
telecommunications tycoon who fuelled a spectacular political
rise with policies that won over the rural and urban poor.
But Thaksin's success posed a challenge to the traditional
Bangkok-based power elite and he was dogged by accusations of
corruption. He was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and has
lived abroad since being sentenced to jail for graft in 2008.
The rival supporters are staging sit-in protests at various
places in and on the outskirts of Bangkok, raising fears of
Two anti-government protesters were injured in a suspected
grenade blast on Saturday night outside the prime minister's
offices, which have been vacant for weeks.
Yingluck's "red shirt" supporters have denounced her removal
as a judicial coup and have warned of a tough reaction if
their caretaker government is also thrown out.
The Senate is due to hold a special session on Monday to
discuss the crisis.
The army, which has staged numerous coups since the end of
absolute monarchy in 1932, has stayed out of the turmoil,
with the army chief insisting that politicians have to settle
the dispute. But substantial violence would raise the
possibility of military intervention.