Thai protest leader promises final push for alternative PM


Anti-government protesters in Thailand are to stage mass rallies in coming days to try to get a new prime minister installed, but their leader said if this final push in a six-month fight did not succeed, he would surrender to the authorities on May 27.

“It’s time. This show has been going on for so long,” Suthep Thaugsuban told a meeting of supporters from around the country on Saturday. “It must come to an end. Whether it will be a happy ending depends on the great mass of people in this country and our state officials.”

Thailand has been in turmoil since the protests flared up in November, the latest phase in nearly a decade of antagonism between the Bangkok-based establishment and supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who won huge support among the rural and urban poor but was ousted by the army in 2006.

Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was forced to step down as prime minister on May 7 when the country’s Constitutional Court found her and nine ministers guilty of abuse of power.

Remaining cabinet members selected Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan to replace her, but the anti-government protesters led by Suthep said they had no authority to do that and want all the ministers replaced.

Suthep told Saturday’s meeting – held in Government House, where the prime minister normally works but which he has commandeered – that the mass rallies would start on Monday.

Ahead of that, he would meet with state company officials and sympathetic retired civil servants on Sunday to draw up plans for a new administration and then he wanted to meet serving top civil servants on Thursday.

Thailand has not had a lower house of parliament since December, when Yingluck dissolved the house and called a general election. Voting was disrupted by Suthep’s supporters and the election was then declared void by the Constitutional Court. A proposed rerun on July 20 is looking increasingly unlikely.

The upper house Senate, half of whose members are appointed and many of them establishment figures with views close to Suthep, is trying to break the impasse.

On Friday, after a meeting of a limited group of senators, its newly elected speaker said the Senate was prepared to choose an interim prime minister but members wanted to speak to political parties first. They will meet the government on Monday.