In a shaky voice, her eyes welling with tears, she said she has backed down to the point where she did not know how to back down any further.
“Everyone can get hurt. It is not that I have no feelings. I have paid attention to the protesters’ demands. We all are Thais. Do you want us not to even live on Thai soil?” Yingluck asked.
Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Democrat MP and leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), on Monday succeeded in mobilising over 100,000 protesters and demanded Yingluck and the entire Cabinet immediately relinquish administrative power after she announced the dissolution of the House of Representatives. He also vowed to create a “People’s Assembly” to reshape the country.
Though the new election date has been declared for February 2, the situation remains tense, as it is unclear if Thailand’s oldest party – the Democrats – would boycott the election, as they did in 2006.
The situation in Bangkok has caught international attention. Yesterday, Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the US Department of State, said in a statement: “We encourage all involved to resolve political differences peacefully and democratically in a way that reflects the will of the Thai people and strengthens the rule of law.”
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also issued a statement, saying: “Confrontation is not a solution. Political exchange and a democratic dialogue is the right solution for now.”
He also noted that if Bangkok witnessed more use of force, and more bloodshed, it would be a backward step for democracy, political and social stability as well as for Thailand’s economic development.
Yingluck yesterday said she would stay on until the election was over. She also urged protesters to end their rallies and to go to the polls, to uphold democracy.
Thailand yesterday celebrated Constitution Day, remembering King Rama VII for the promulgation of the first constitution in 1932.
“What the government could do is to dissolve the House and return power to the people. We do not want to see violence,” Yingluck said. Though key members of the Pheu Thai Party want her to contest the election, she said there has been no consultation yet. She refused to say if she would quit politics.
“I did not think that the situation would turn out to be like this. I do not want to see Thai politics become violence-prone,” she said.
Former House speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont said the PDRC’s demand for the government to resign is driving the country towards a dead end.
In a televised programme, caretaker Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri announced that in a consultation between government agencies including the Council of State, under the Constitution’s Article 181, the government cannot leave office before the election is complete.
“The Cabinet is working based on the principle of collective responsibility. We have been appointed by His Majesty the King. But Suthep tried to establish another government without any legal support. The legal government considered that the PDRC’s actions were violating His Majesty the King’s royal prerogative power,” he said.
Suthep urged protesters to stay with him until tomorrowDecember 12. In the announcement on Monday, he called officials across the country to report to the PDRC, rather than to their offices, in a bid to paralyse the administration.
The group, calling itself the Assembly for the Defence of Democracy (AFDD), accused PDRC of trying to create a power vacuum so undemocratic elements could wind the clock back on democratic progress, pointing out that such a move would destroy democracy.
AFDD, which has won support from more than a 100 citizens, held a press conference at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science yesterday. They said Suthep and his supporters’ push for a royally appointed premier and a people’s council was unconstitutional.
Worajet Pakeerut, a lecturer of law at Thammasat, said Suthep’s demand for caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra to step down went against the Constitution as she was serving as caretaker premier while awaiting a snap election. He said even if Yingluck vacated her seat as prime minister, her first deputy would automatically assume her duties, and if none of her deputies were able to carry out their duty as premier, then a senior Cabinet member would have to take over.
“There’s no other way,” Worajet said. He went on to say that he believed the House dissolution was the best thing the premier could have done given the circumstances and that she was duty-bound by the Constitution to continue serving as caretaker premier until the election.
He also criticised deans of several universities, who have aired views in support of the PDRC, calling them shameless and accusing them of doing this for their own benefit, as they were likely to be appointed as members of the people’s council if it does materialise.
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, another Thammasat law lecturer and member of AFDD, said the idea of a “people’s council” was inspired by Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime.
“Calling for a people’s council is tantamount to an attempted coup,” Piyabutr reiterated.
Kasian Tejapira, a noted political scientist at Thammasat, also asked how such a council could be held accountable and scrutinised if it ever eventuated.
“What if Suthep is corrupt? What if the Democrat Party and the armed forces are corrupt? What mechanisms are in place to scrutinise them [under the people’s council]?”
Charnvit Kasetsri, a former rector at Thammasat, said Thailand was facing anarchy.
“The protest has become a problem in itself and it is accelerating conflicts,” he said, adding that some academics had taken the anti-democratic stance of claiming to represent the entire academic community without seeking consent of others.
While academics like Worajet said Thailand was still far from being free from another coup, his colleague Thanet Apornsuwan, also from Thammasat, took the opportunity to thank the Army for not staging a coup yet.
AFDD’s statement proposed a referendum on how to amend the charter, which was approved when the junta-appointed Surayud Chulanont administration was in power and several provinces were under martial law.
Ekkachai Sriwilas, a senior official at King Prajadhipok’s Institute, said proposals on reform should be presented to the public in
— Phuket Gazette Editors
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