Thailand Turmoil: Protestors to press on despite dissolution of parliament

BANGKOK - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved the House of Representatives on Monday morning, as thousands of protesters prepared to march into her office to overthrow her administration.

"The government does not want any loss of life," she said in a televised national address, adding that she would hold a general election "as soon as possible".

The election move could increase pressure on protesters to agree to some kind of compromise with the government.

The move is unlikely to halt the demonstrations though, as the anti-government protesters have made clear that their aim is not fresh elections but the creation of a vaguely defined "people's council" led by a royally appointed prime minster.

Through this, they want to rid the influence of Thaksin Shinawatra, Ms Yingluck's brother, and also premier until he was deposed by a coup in 2006.

Thaksin lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai to evade a jail term for corruption convictions, which he says are politically motivated. He remains popular among Thailand's rural masses in the northeast, which guarantees election victory for the ruling Puea Thai party.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told Reuters that the march will continue: "We have not yet reached our goal. The dissolving of parliament is not our aim."

The dissolution came one day after the opposition Democrats resigned en masse from the Lower House to join in today's street protest, saying it could not work with the government which had lost its legitimacy. Hours before the mass resignations, Ms Yingluck had proposed a referendum, saying that she was prepared to resign or call for fresh elections that was wanted by the majority of the people.

The protests started in late October in response to a Puea Thai-sponsored Bill that would grant amnesty to Thaksin, among other people, but it has grown into a full blown anti-government movement even after Puea Thai later retreated on amnesty plans.

Among those agitating against Thaksin are royalists, elites, and urban middle class - the same group who massed on the streets in 2006 against his premiership prior to a military coup. They have pitched their campaign as a fight against corruption, though critics argue that it is a power grab by the elites trying to circumvent the electoral process.

Analyst Kan Yuenyong from Siam Intelligence Unit expects protest leaders to keep up the momentum of street demonstrations.

"The protest is just another instrument of the anti-Thaksin camp," he told The Straits Times. "They will likely try many means to create a vacuum of power, so that they can set up an interim government, to run for a couple of years."

tanhy@sph.com.sg