"In dealing with political problems we should not set a new standard whereby solutions are demanded though the use of violence and threats," Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva said.
Thailand’s embattled Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday pledged that his government will not submit to the use of “violence and threats” by a protest movement that has seized portions of Bangkok to demand that he dissolve parliament.
Thousands of anti-government protestors have occupied the heart of Bangkok’s commercial district at Ratchaprasong intersection since April 3, refusing to disperse until Mr. Abhisit dissolves parliament and holds new elections.
Their six-week old demonstration has already led to violence that has claimed 26 lives and left more than 900 wounded.
On Friday, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) dropped eased its previous demand for an immediate house dissolution, to calling for a dissolution in 30 days, but Mr. Abhisit quickly turned down the new deadline.
“I have never rejected a political solution but we need to understand two points,” Mr. Abhisit said in a pre-recorded national television broadcast Sunday morning. “Firstly, in dealing with political problems we should not set a new standard whereby solutions are demanded though the use of violence and threats.” His second point was that the UDD appeared to have a “hidden agenda” behind their demands, which was seizing power to “solve someone’s problems.” Mr. Abhisit and his government have long insisted that the UDD’s main goal is to create chaos to pave the way for a return to power for fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who faces a two—year jail term for a conviction of abuse of power conviction. He recently lost 1.4 billion dollars in family assets that were seized on similar charges.
But the UDD insists that its goals go beyond Mr. Thaksin’s personal ambitions.
UDD leaders say they are demanding new elections to return the power to the people — a majority of whom support Mr. Thaksin because of populist programs implemented during his two terms between 2001—06.
He instilled many of the rural and urban poor with sense of political entitlement that they are now expressing on the streets of Bangkok.
Mr. Thaksin, living abroad since August 2008, remains popular among the poor and sectors of Thai society keen for a change in the establishment that comprises the monarchy, military, a bureaucratic elite and “old money,” which is closely identified with Mr. Abhisit, the Oxford educated, 45—year—old leader of the oldest political party, the Democrats.
Pro—Mr. Thaksin elements are known to exist in the military, the police and most goverment offices, making it difficult for Mr. Abhisit and authorities to defeat the UDD.
On Sunday morning, the signal for the state—run NBT station’s broadcast of Mr. Abhisit and Army Commander—in—Chief General Anupong Paochinda was cut for more than 10 minutes, leaving viewers in the dark before the broadcast resumed.
“This morning there was tampering with the signal,” Mr. Abhisit admitted after the show was aired. “We are investigating who was responsible for the incident.” Mr. Abhisit insisted that a dissolution of parliament and quick elections would not restore normally and peace, although he was less clear on what would.
There were hints of measures dislodge the protestors from the central shopping district, but no details.
An effort to clear the demonstrators from the old part of Bangkok on April 10 led to a violent clash with troops that left 20 civilians and five soldiers dead, and over 840 others wounded.
Some of the red shirts fought back with M79 grenade launchers and assault rifles. “That was something we didn’t expect to happen on April 10,” General Anupong said.
He denied significant splits within the army, but acknowledged that there were ex—military men cooperating with the UDD.
Grenade attacks Thursday on pro—government protestors in the main financial district killed one person and injured 88 others, including two foreign tourists. It is still unclear who was behind the attacks, the first to target civilians.
dpa pj tl 250625 GMT Apr 10