Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is standing firm and continue to hold on to power despite the widespread protest against her two-and-a-half-year leadership. In a vote of 297 to 134, Yingluck hurdled in the Thai parliament the no-confidence issue. The impact of the parliamentary vote will allow her to deal with the crisis head-on. Even though the protests are crippling her government, she declares “my government will not use force” to disperse and quell the protests.
To immediately address the crisis after getting the support of the parliament is her imposition of curfews and the blocking of roads and other main thoroughfares of cities. The police also issued a warrant for the arrest of former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the protesters.
The protesters have been occupying several key government offices in the capital and in the provinces. They have likewise occupied all the 14 southern provincial government offices and which include the popular tourist destination Phuket. Aside from these, they also occupied similar offices in the north and north-east of Thailand which is a known Shinawatra bailiwick.
In fact, the protesters have chosen and occupied the Ministry of Finance as their de-facto headquarters where here they receive food donations and other basic supplies from supporters. About 2,000 protesters also occupied the Department of Special Investigation and flushed out employees working there. The protesters are demanding a “People’s Assembly” to replace the current government.
According to Suthep, they will eventually overpower the government and erase the vast network established by Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister and brother to Yingluck. Based on information gathered by the protesters, even if Thaksin, a telecommunications billionaire, is now living abroad as an exile he still exercises great influence in how the government is managed. They said that Thaksin is still running the government from abroad.
Initial reports indicated that the main reason why the protests snowballed is because of the plan of the parliament to pass a law that will allow Thaksin to return and absolved him from all of his alleged crimes through a pardon. But the senate of Thailand rejected such proposed bill last November 11. The opposition Democrat Party then exhorted the people to attend demonstrations to demand that Yingluck Shinawatra be replaced.
But Yingluck stressed that she will not appeal the bill’s rejection and would respect the senate in this regard. The other concerns the protesters raised is with regard to government corruption and a failed scheme that will benefit the farmers.
One of the solutions floated was a special election to be held immediately. This could reinforce her hold on the government but Yingluck thumbed-down the proposal saying that even if an election is held the protesters will still not be satisfied. The situation is still very fragile and the only way the crisis can be resolved is through negotiations, she added.
Thaksin was removed from office in a coup also after massive protests in 2006. Although living as an exile abroad his popularity still remains high especially with the rural voters. The protesters on the other hand comprise mostly of middle class and urban voters.
This current wave of protests is the largest since 2010 when pro-Thaksin groups or “red shirts” occupied strategic points in Bangkok. The two-month sit-in protests however, resulted in the deaths of 90 people, mostly civilians. The “red shirts” are demanding the return of Thaksin back then.
Yingluck Shinawatra may be in for a tough time at the moment but with calculated counter-actions she still stands firm despite the widespread protests against her leadership.
By Roberto I. Belda