Thai premier dissolves parliament, protests continue

Photo: Thai premier dissolves parliament, protests continue / Other Countries

Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through Bangkok Monday to protest against the continuing political influence of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, dpa reported.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's younger sister, Monday announced the dissolution of parliament in the face of mass protests against her government.

But the announcement did not stop more than 100,000 protesters from taking to the streets of the capital and stopping traffic as they descended on Government House, the seat of the administration.

Yingluck said she made the decision because "the government does not want Thailand or the Thai people to suffer more losses, because Thailand has suffered a lot already."

The premier said she had sent the decision to King Bhumibol Adulyadej for his approval as head of state, and her cabinet would remain as a caretaker government until a new election was held.

"This is not enough," said Thaworn Senneam, a spokesman for the protesters leaders. "We do not accept them staying on as a caretaker government."

Suthep Thaungsuban has been leading the mass marches to topple the government and rid the country of Thaksin's influence.

Suthep said a house dissolution was not the goal, but that his movement wants an appointed prime minister to set up a "People's Council" and "People's Government" for an interim period before any new elections.

Under Article 7 in the Thai constitution, if there is a power vacuum, an appointed prime minister may be proposed for endorsement by the king, but the article is vague and subject to dispute.

The current caretaker cabinet cannot resign, since parliament has already been dissolved, according to the constitution.

"They want to use Article 7, which can only happen if each and every minister announces that they will no longer do their job and thereby creates a power vacuum," said Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng.

Suthep is expected to announce his demands when he reaches Government House, which is only guarded by unarmed policemen.

"I think we would allow them to enter the compound without resistance," said Police Lieutenant Colonel Kissana Phatsanacharoen, spokesman for the Centre for Administration of Peace and Order.

Suthep early Monday led thousands of followers from his base at an occupied government complex in northern Bangkok to the cabinet's headquarters, about 20 kilometres away.

At least nine major marches were planned in Bangkok, as well as dozens of smaller marches.

At the centre of the political upheaval is the prime minister's brother, who has been living abroad since 2008 to avoid a two-year jail sentence for abuse of power.

He was prime minister during 2001-06, before being ousted by a coup, and is still regarded as the de facto leader of Yingluck's party.

Suthep resigned his seat in parliament with the opposition Democrat Party to lead street protests since November 1, when the ruling coalition approved an amnesty bill in the lower house to pardon Thaksin and others involved in thousands of politically related cases during 2004-13.

The amnesty bill was later rejected by the Senate.

The rest of the Democrat Party members of parliament announced their resignations Monday to join the demonstrations.

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