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Updated: March 16, 2010 04:45 IST

Thailand's Abhisit rules out snap polls amid protests

P. S. Suryanarayana
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Supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra make their way on a street after they were dispersed from a rally outside a military barrack in Bangkok on Monday . Photo: AP
Supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra make their way on a street after they were dispersed from a rally outside a military barrack in Bangkok on Monday . Photo: AP

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Monday ruled out snap polls, even as protesters rallied and picketed a military facility in Bangkok. The protesters, unofficially estimated to number tens of thousands, called for an immediate dissolution of the House of Representatives and fresh elections.

There were late-evening reports of a grenade attack on a military barrack. However, the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order, set up under an Internal Security Operations Command, did not report this until nightfall.

The crux of the protest was that Mr. Abhisit was alleged to have come to power over a year ago without a popular mandate in his own favour. Monday's protest, like the earlier demonstrations against his continuance in office, was organised by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.

The front consists of diverse interest groups and poor masses who benefited during the now-fugitive Thai leader, Thaksin Shinawatra's term as Prime Minister. Mr. Thaksin, toppled in a bloodless military coup in September 2006, lives in self-imposed exile. He has been encouraging his supporters through “live” and video-speeches from his unspecified bases abroad.

Alluding to the 24-hour ultimatum, which the protesters set for the dissolution of the House of Representatives, Mr. Abhisit said that all the coalition partners in his government agreed that this could not be done.

Mr. Abshist said: “In normal circumstances, the dissolution of the House is a possible political solution when there is a parliamentary crisis. It could also be an option during other severe crises, if it could help resolve them. However, as it has become clear from what the protest leaders have said on a number of occasions, dissolving the House and calling for fresh elections is only one of the issues in the present political conflict. There are other issues which go beyond the existence of the present government. [Also], a genuinely peaceful environment [for a snap election] does not yet exist.”

No violence

Mr. Abhisit further maintained that no violence would be unleashed on the protesters from the government side. His coalition partners agreed with him on the modus operandi for dealing with the current situation.

The norms were “respect for people's constitutional right to peaceful assembly, the use of a special law to maintain peace and order, and no initiation of violence to disperse the demonstrations”.

Dismissing “rumours of a possible military coup” in the present surcharged circumstances, he said a coup was not a solution to any problem. Moreover, his administration and the armed forces “work closely”.

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