Thai police in clashes with protesters
Tear gas fired as anti-government demonstrators rally in Bangkok
Anti government supporters cheer in front of Government House in Bangkok yesterday after taking to the streets in support of opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban. Photograph: Borja Sanchez-Trillo/Getty Images
Thai police have fired tear gas at anti-government protesters in Bangkok, two days after the country’s top constitutional court outssted Pprime Mminister Yingluck Shinawatra, saying she had abused her power.
Hundreds of protesters rallied outside a government compound in the city. Ms Yingluck was ordered to step down on Wednesday over the illegal transfer in 2011 of her security chief, while another court has indicted her for negligence.
Anti-government protesters want to force out the government, postpone an election planned for July 20th, and rule by an interim council, ending what they see as the residual and corrupt influence of Ms Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, the populist former prime minister who was ousted by a military coup in 2006 and who now lives in exile in Dubai.
“We will sweep the debris of the Thaksin regime out of the country,” said protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy premier in a government run by the pro-establishment Democrat party.
Ms Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party is still in control of the interim government and she has been replaced by her deputy prime minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan, a staunch Thaksin loyalist. Ms Yingluck and her party would most likely win the election if it goes ahead.
Whether it can go ahead is another question. Ms Yingluck dissolved parliament in December and called a snap election but the main opposition party boycotted it and anti-government activists disrupted it so much it was declared void.
There are growing fears the constitutional court’s decision could further galvanise support for Ms Yingluck and supporters of her brother, who between them have won every election since 2001, and his “Red Shirt” backers believe the ruling elite are prepared to use any means necessary to force them out of power.
In 2008, for example, the constitutional
court ousted then-prime minister Samak Sundaravej for hosting a cooking show.
Tens of thousands of angry Red Shirts are due in Bangkok today for a rally to support the Shinawatras, and call for the July election to take place. They burned effigies and mock coffins in various provinces to protest at the court’s decision.
About 25 people have been killed since the anti-government protests began in November last year. The protests were sparked by signs Ms Yingluck was seeking ways to bring her brother back to Thailand and give him an amnesty.
Ms Yingluck was indicted by Thailand’s anti-corruption agency on Thursday for a rice-subsidy scheme under which the state paid farmers way above market prices for their crops.
The opposition is criticised for trying to undermine democracy in Thailand by using legalistic points and loopholes to keep kicking out the Shinawatras, and for saying the majority of Thais are not yet ready for democracy.
In its defence, the opposition points to the rice subsidy scheme as typifiying the way the populist Shinawatras hold on to power, by not playing fair and by winning over the voters using grants and subsidies.