The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Protesters march to Thai prime minister's compound as battle for power escalates

  • Print

BANGKOK - Thailand's anti-government protesters left their main camp Monday to resettle near Parliament and the prime minister's vacated office compound, where their leader pledged to set up his new office in a direct challenge to the government's authority.

The country's new caretaker prime minister, Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, meanwhile worked at a makeshift suburban outpost, underlining the government's weakness. He reiterated calls for a July election and said he and his Cabinet were committed to finding a peaceful solution to the country's political crisis.

Thailand's grinding 6-month political crisis has deepened since last week, when the constitutional Court removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for nepotism in a case that many viewed as politically motivated. Nine Cabinet ministers were also dismissed.

Protesters say her removal is not enough. They want to set up an unelected "people's council" to implement still-undefined reforms to completely remove her family's influence from politics before any elections, which the current ruling party would likely win.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has called for a "final push" to install an unelected leader — a goal that critics call undemocratic but supporters say is necessary to carry out the reforms.

On Monday, Suthep ended a monthslong occupation of Bangkok's Lumpini Park, which protesters had converted into a litter-strewn campground. He led thousands of supporters to the Parliament, where the Senate was informally meeting to discuss the crisis and debate his controversial proposal for an appointed prime minister.

Suthep met at the Parliament with what appeared to be about half of the chamber's 150 senators, including new Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai, who is seen as sympathetic to his views.

Protesters were making their new main base outside the prime minister's office compound, called Government House, though after the meeting Suthep called for them also to stay outside Parliament, which is nearby. The executive compound has been vacant for months due to the threat of takeover by protesters.

Suthep says protesters will remain outside the compound and that he will not occupy the actual prime minister's office. But he plans to set up an office in the compound's Santi Maitree Building traditionally used for state visits.

The military that provides security at Government House said over the weekend that Suthep would be allowed in to avoid further clashes in a crisis that has left more than 20 dead and hundreds injured since November.

Police have sought for months to charge Suthep with insurrection, terrorism and other crimes for leading the protests.

Acting Prime Minister Niwattumrong defended the government's hands-off approach as good crisis management. "We do not want violence or any problems," he told reporters Monday.

Last week, Yingluck's remaining Cabinet named Niwattumrong, who was deputy premier, as acting leader. Government supporters have warned that any attempt to install an unelected prime minister could spark a "civil war."

Like Yingluck before him, he is forced to work out of the Office to the Permanent Secretary for Defence in the unfashionable suburb of Muang Thong Thani.

"I don't think we'll have a civil war," Niwattumrong told reporters. "It's already (been) six months, and we can manage the country quite well."

Both supporters and opponents are keeping large crowds of supporters in the Thai capital, which has raised concerns of clashes.

Thailand's political crisis began in 2006, when Yingluck'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.

Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire, remains highly popular among the rural poor in Thailand's north and northeast, and parties controlled by him have won every national election since 2001. The anti-government protesters, aligned with the opposition Democrat Party and backed by the country's traditional elites, say they want to remove all traces of his political machine from politics.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Glenn January won't blame offensive line for first loss

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Jia Ping Lu practices tai chi in Assiniboine Park at the duck pond Thursday morning under the eye of a Canada goose  - See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge Day 13- May 17, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.

View More Gallery Photos


Do you like Gord Steeves’ idea to sell four city-owned golf courses to fund road renewal?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google