Thai anti-government protesters retreat from two sites

February 04, 2014 11:21 am | Updated November 16, 2021 06:40 pm IST - Bangkok

Anti-government protesters retreated on Monday from two of the key Bangkok intersections they have occupied since January 13 as part of their effort to paralyze 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 the protest going, citing record-low voter turnout in Sunday’s polls as evidence that Ms. Yingluck and her Pheu Thai Party were losing support.

The low turnout was due in part 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 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,” Mr. Phuchong told Thai Radio .

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