Thai anti-gov't protesters edgy after more violence
Friday, March 07, 2014
By Arnaud Dubus
BANGKOK - Violence in the Thai capital is putting the remaining anti-government protesters on edge - two of them were shot Friday morning, while a protest leader announced she was giving up the campaign after her parents' house was sprayed with bullets.
Early Friday, a woman and man were injured by gunshots near a large public park in downtown Bangkok - one of a few sites in the city where the last few thousand anti-government protesters have grouped since March 3.
Violent incidents have regularly marred protests since demonstrators took to the streets in early November. According to the independent organization Erawan Emergency Service, 22 people have been killed and over 700 injured in protest-related incidents.
Protest leader Taya Teepsuwan announced Friday that she was suspending her participation in anti-government movement, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) after gunmen shot up the house. A few days before the attack, she had blown a whistle at the former wife of ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra - the brother of the current head of government, Yingluck, and the main target of the protesters.
Whistle blowing has become a staple of the anti-government movement. For months, Bangkok intersections were blocked by groups waving red, white and blue Thai flags and blasting tiny pen whistles while passers-by cover their ears.
The increase in violence has pushed Thai army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha to declare publicly that “a special method” could be needed to resolve the political crisis ”“ a statement that many observers assessed as implying a coup was a possible option. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has held two meetings this week with the army chief to discuss the situation and a coming military reshuffle. A third meeting was scheduled for Friday.
In an opinion piece published Friday in the Bangkok Post, a journalist with expertise in military affairs, Wassana Nanuam, wrote that supporters of the government held a strong belief “that the army chief maintains close ties with the PDRC movement” and “no one dares guarantee that there will be no coup in Thailand.”
The prime minister is facing a wave of opposition protests after her government pushed through an amnesty that would have lifted a conviction against Thaksin, whose Thai Rak Thai (Thai love Thai) party led the country from 2001 to 2006 until he was overthrown in a coup and then found guilty of abuse of power.
Confronted by massive protests, the government withdrew the bill, but the opposition has alleged massive corruption by the government and Shinawatra family.
Yingluck dissolved parliament December 9 and called February 2 elections, which were disrupted by protesters who want an unelected “people’s council” to run Thailand until the political system is reformed in a way which would limit the influence of elected governments and increase the powers of control of independent agencies appointed by magistrates.
Yingluck is also facing charges of negligence of duty filed by the opposition at the National Anti-Corruption Commission in relation to a rice-subsidies scheme ”“ a process which could eventually lead to her impeachment.
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