Anti-government protesters on Monday retreated from two key Bangkok intersections they had occupied since January 13, 2014 as part of their effort to paralyse the government, but vowed to keep their demonstration going.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said the regrouping was necessary to protect demonstrators from expected attacks by the caretaker government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
“I predict Yingluck’s people will start to use more force against us from today onwards,” Mr. Suthep told Blue Sky TV. “We don’t want any more of our people to be harmed so we are taking them somewhere safer.”
The two intersections, in northern Bangkok, have been the target of grenades and gunfire by unidentified assailants. Mr. Suthep, under heavy guard, led thousands of People’s Democratic Reform Committee followers from the vulnerable sites to a park in central Bangkok.
Mr. Suthep has vowed to keep his protest going, citing a record low voter turnout in Sunday’s polls as evidence that Yingluck and her Pheu Thai Party were losing popularity.
The low turnout was in part due to the PDRC, which sought to derail the polls by disrupting the delivery of ballots and blocking voting from being carried in more than 10 per cent of the 93,000 polling stations.
Most of the disruption was in Bangkok and the southern provinces, the traditional power base of the opposition Democrat Party, which boycotted the election.
The disruptions forced the Election Commission to postpone announcing overall results. But the fact that the election was held at all was seen as a blow to the PDRC.
Election Commission Secretary—General Phuchong Nutrawong said that only an estimated 45.8 per cent of the 44.6 million eligible voters had voted Sunday.
The unofficial estimate excluded voters in the nine southern provinces where polls were cancelled entirely.
“This is the first time in our history we’ve had such a low turnout, but the circumstances were unusual,” Phuchong todl Thai Radio.
In the last general election of 2011 about 75 per cent of the electorate went to the polls. Given the tense political climate in Thailand and the many irregularities of Sunday’s polls, Phuchong predicted the election process would not be completed until March.
The PDRC has been staging mass demonstrations in Bangkok for the past three months, hoping to create a power vacuum that could pave the way for a Senate—appointed prime minister and “people’s council,” to make political reforms before a new government could be elected.
Neither side showed signs of backing down after Sunday’s indecisive polls.
“Now it’s a war of attrition between us and the government,” PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan said. “The one who can stay longer, wins.”