Supporters of Thailand’s embattled government are set for a rally in a show of force following a tumultuous week that saw Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and part of her Cabinet forced from power by a controversial court ruling.
Head of the pro-government Red Shirt Movement staging the rally on the western outskirts of Bangkok, Jatuporn Prompan, said that “as long as the country’s democracy is not safe, we will be here.”
The gathering takes place a day after anti-government protesters who have been campaigning for six months to remove Shinawatra from office, layed siege to television stations and surrounding state offices, demanding that the lawmakers help them install a non-elected prime minister by Monday.
Police fired tear gas and water cannons to push back hundreds of protesters who attempted to force their way into the government’s security agency. Six people were reported injured.
The cabinet last week named Deputy Premier Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan as acting Prime Minister, but anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told followers Friday night that the Senate should select a new premier immediately, since the lower house has been dissolved since December.
“This matter must end by Monday,” Thaugsuban warned, saying the protesters were ready to take over the offices of the prime minister themselves.
“If it’s not finished by then, we’ll do it ourselves,” he threatened.
On the other hand Prompan warned that if there’s a coup or an unelected prime minister is installed, the Red Shirts will “escalate our fight immediately.”
Thailand’s long-running political crisis began in 2006 when Shinawatra’s brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled by a military coup after being accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
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Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire, remains highly popular among the rural poor in the north and northeast, and parties controlled by him have won every national election since 2001.
The protesters, aligned with the opposition Democrat Party, say they want to remove all traces of his political machine from politics.