PM mentions dissolution of parliament to halt anti-government protests in Bangkok that have led to at least four deaths
|Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra at a press conference in Bangkok |
where violent anti-government protests continue. Photograph: Str/EPA
Thailand's embattled prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has vowed to do whatever it takes to "bring peace back to the Thai people" after protests continued on Monday in the capital Bangkok, where at least four people have been killed and 200 injured in a 10-day push to overthrow the government.
Protest leaders, however, stressed they would not negotiate and promised to seize Bangkok's police headquarters, which they see as a proxy of Yingluck's administration, and where fighting between protesters and police took place all day.
The man leading the demonstrations, Suthep Thaugsuban, 64, a former opposition lawmaker, has issued Yingluck an ultimatum to "return power to the people" by Tuesday. He and his Civil Movement for Democracy (CMD) aim to overthrow the democratically elected government and install a so-called "people's council" manned by unelected representatives with the king as head of state. The CMD believes Yingluck's administration to be a puppet of her brother Thaksin, the former PM who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and now lives in self-exile in Dubai and London.
Seemingly contradicting an interview she gave to the BBC last week, in which she said she would neither step down nor hold early elections, Yingluck told a press conference that "the government is not trying to cling to power".
"I am not against either resignation or dissolution of parliament if this solution will stop the protests," she added.
"If there's anything I can do to bring peace back to the Thai people I am happy to do it. The government is more than willing to have talks, but I myself cannot see a way out of this problem that is within the law and in the constitution."
Protesters have said they are unwilling to negotiate and will only back down once the "Thaksin regime" has been fully overthrown. In a televised address on Monday night, Suthep vowed to fight as long as need be, even alone, until Yingluck had been removed from office.
"They can always come back to suck the blood of people, steal from people, disrespect the constitution and make us their slaves," he said in an apparent reference to the Shinawatra family.
While protests have taken place throughout the week around Bangkok – primarily in relation to a proposed amnesty bill that would have paved the way for Thaksin's return from exile and squashed his corruption conviction – the violence only really began on Saturday, when pro-Thaksin redshirts fought with anti-government student demonstrators near a sports stadium. At least four people have been killed and over 200 injured since.
On Monday, much of the violence centred around Government House, the seat of the prime minister's offices, and police headquarters.
Protesters threw rocks, bottles and homemade explosives at police in riot gear, who retaliated with water cannons and rubber bullets, and faced a standoff after protesters used rubbish trucks and bulldozers to try to overrun barriers.
Doctors at a Bangkok hospital confirmed on Monday that two patients had been treated for gunshot wounds from live rounds, although it was not clear who the gunmen were. Thai police insist they are only using rubber bullets, and Yingluck's government has taken great pains to use as little force against protestors as possible.
Although Suthep has claimed that the military is on his side, Yingluck told the nation that the military was acting neutrally and "wants to see a peaceful way out".
"I believe that no one wants to see a repeat of history, where we saw people suffer and lose their lives," she said.
The political violence is Thailand's worst since the 2010 demonstrations that saw 2,000 injured and nearly 100 killed in a military crackdown.