Asia

Thailand PM Yingluck Shinawatra rules out early election

  • 29 November 2013
  • From the section Asia

Thai Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has ruled out an early election, following six days of protests aimed at removing her from office.

She told the BBC the situation in Thailand was not calm enough for polls.

She also said she would not authorise the use of force against protesters occupying government ministries.

She was speaking after demonstrators forced their way into the army headquarters in Bangkok and held a demonstration there.

Ms Yingluck has been prime minister since 2011, when her Pheu Thai party won a general election.

In an interview with the BBC's Jonathan Head on Friday, she said that if she called a new election, she was not sure the protesters would be satisfied.

"I love this country. I devote myself to this country. I need only one thing for the country: we need to protect democracy," she said.

She said the situation in Thailand was "very sensitive" and repeated her call for negotiations to resolve the crisis.

On Thursday, Ms Yingluck called for an end to the demonstrations after surviving a no-confidence vote.

However protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has rejected her appeal.

"We will not let them work anymore," the former senior opposition lawmaker said in a speech late on Thursday.

Image caption Protesters went inside the army HQ compound, sitting on the lawn
Image caption In the last week protesters have marched on different government buildings
Image caption On Thursday, they protested at the national police headquarters, shutting it down
Image caption The government has asked the protesters to hold talks - but has been rejected

On Friday at least 1,000 protesters forced their way into the army headquarters compound, but did not enter any buildings.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher, who was at the scene, said protesters were massed on a lawn listening to speeches from leaders on a stage they had erected.

They urged the army to come out in support of the demonstrators. "We want to know which side the army stands on," Reuters news agency quoted one protester as saying.

Our correspondent described the atmosphere as good natured and said the authorities appeared keen to avoid confrontation. The protesters later left peacefully.

Special powers

Demonstrators have been surrounding and occupying official buildings this week in an attempt to disrupt the government.

During the demonstrations, which have been largely peaceful so far, participants have previously cut the electricity supply to the national police headquarters and forced the evacuation of Thailand's top crime-fighting agency.

The protesters say Ms Yingluck's government is controlled by her brother, exiled former leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Thaksin, one of the most polarising characters in Thai politics, was ousted in a coup following protests in 2006. He now lives in self-imposed exile overseas, but remains popular with many rural voters.

The protesters tend to be urban and middle class voters.

Ms Yingluck has invoked special powers allowing curfews and road closures, and police have also ordered the arrest of Mr Suthep - but so far no move has been made to detain him.

An estimated 100,000 opposition supporters protested in Bangkok on Sunday, although the numbers appear to have dropped significantly during the week.

The country is facing its largest protests since 2010, when thousands of "red-shirt" Thaksin supporters occupied key parts of the capital. More than 90 people, mostly civilian protesters, died over the course of the two-month sit-in.

The proposed passage of a controversial political amnesty bill, which critics said would have facilitated the return of Thaksin without having to serve jail, reignited simmering political tensions.

The Senate rejected the bill, which sought to cover offences committed during the upheaval after Thaksin was removed from office.

Ms Yingluck said she accepted the vote and would not resubmit the legislation.

More on this story