In a bid to calm protesters seeking her resignation, Thailand’s embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Thursday proposed a new forum for political reforms to be implemented by the next government after the February 2 general elections.
Reaffirming that the snap polls will go ahead, she said the proposed panel would bring together all players to sit in the same room and discuss political reforms as a peaceful means to avoid any future deadlock.
For the past two weeks, thousands of protesters have been marching in Bangkok to replace Ms. Yingluck with an unelected “People’s Council”.
“The government has an open mind to all opinions and will join the forum to find the best way out for Thailand,” Ms. Yingluck said at a nationally televised press conference.
The government was seeking a common ground for the future of the country through political reforms, which would be undertaken after the elections, she said.
Protesters cutoff power supply
Earlier Thursday protesters cut off the electricity supply to Government House, the seat of the administration, pro-opposition Blue Sky TV reported. They reportedly scaled a fence to enter the compound where they removed some barbed wire from the inner perimeter before retreating.
Government House was abandoned by the cabinet on Monday when more than 100,000 protesters surrounded the compound, leading to Yingluck dissolving parliament and scheduling new polls for February 2.
Despite the house dissolution, Suthep has continued the protest, with the broader goal of ridding politics of the influence of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother.
Suthep said he wants to install an appointed premier and an interim “People’s Council.” The military top brass turned down Suthep’s offer of a meeting to explain his demands, considering such a meeting too dangerous in the current political climate, the Bangkok Post reported Thursday.
“This time we (the military) are between a lot of people on two sides,” army commander-in-chief General Prayuth Chan-Ocha was quoted as saying.
“If you cannot clean up (the stalemate) first, it’s very dangerous,” he said. “We must be patient and keep calm and do everything carefully.” Observers say Suthep’s wider reform programme cannot succeed without military intervention.
Thailand has seen 18 military coups since a clique of officers ended the absolute monarchy in 1932, paving the way for a democratic system with a constitutional monarchy.
Former PM indicted
In a related political case, a Thai court on Thursday formally indicted former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for his involvement in a 2010 crackdown on protesters, prohibiting him from leaving the country.
Abhisit was prime minister in 2010 when tens of thousands of pro-Thaksin Red Shirts held protests in Bangkok demanding Abhisit’s resignation and the dissolution of parliament. The protest led to street battles that left at least 92 people dead.
Abhisit was prime minister and Suthep his deputy in charge of security during the protests in April—May 2010.
In a recent interview, Abhisit said the charges were politically motivated.