By Surasak Tumcharoen
BANGKOK, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's anti-government mass action, dubbed by organizers as "Bangkok shutdown," has entered its second week and could intensify and provoke more violence and bloodshed in the coming days.
Observers here said that the street protests, which started Monday last week, could continue up to Feb. 2, the date for the new parliamentary polls called by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, according to National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut.
Former deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban and several ex- legislators of the Democrat Party, who have been orchestrating the street protests since the last few months, have threatened to turn the "Bangkok shutdown" into an open-ended, off-parliament political phenomenon that would continue until Yingluck steps down.
Calling themselves the People's Committee for Absolute Democracy, the protest leaders have ironically vowed to disrupt the electoral process which was called following Yingluck's dissolution of the parliament last month.
The protesters intimidated and barred electoral candidates from applying to contest in several southern provinces and laid siege to a government-run printing house in the capital to stop it from printing voting ballots. Police fired tear gas to disperse hordes of protesters at a stadium in the heart of the capital where they had tried to disrupt the drawing of lots for electoral numbers by political parties vying in the nationwide polls.
The sustained protests are feared to provoke grave, untoward incidents in the approaching weeks and beyond, according to the NSC chief. "The authorities have been very concerned over the possibility that unknown third hands could trigger violence and bloodshed on the streets thus exacerbating the situation," he said.
Nearly 30 persons were injured on Friday by an explosive hurled into a crowd of protesters marching on Bantattong Road near Patumwan intersection, which is among several others currently occupied by the protesters. One was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Suthep who was inside a truck leading the protesters was unharmed and vowed not to stop the protests until Yingluck and her lameduck government are ousted from power.
More bloodshed on the city streets is feared since Suthep threatened to have his followers and their armed bodyguards to abduct Yingluck and force her to resign as acting premier.
This has prompted the police to "plan a mission" to arrest Suthep in a "non-violent" manner. Police Chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew sidestepped questions as to how soon that mission might be put to work or how to cope with some 40 bodyguards of Suphep, known to be fully armed. Chulalongkorn University's political scientist Pornsan Liangboonlertchai criticized the law enforcement officers for their failure to stop the protest leaders from instigating street unrests and provoking more bloodshed.
"Law enforcement officers cannot deny the duties to avert further turmoil now that they have threatened to forcefully take custody of the prime minister which is utterly an unlawful act,'' he said.
According to a commanding police officer, who only spoke on condition of anonymity, violence and bloodshed could not be prevented the moment some outsiders use explosives or guns to disrupt the protest movement.
Most of the bodyguards of the protest leaders are known to be heavily armed and they could create trouble and then blame the authorities for the ensuring violence or bloodshed, one security officer said.
Despite the street protests, Army chief Gen. Prayudh Chan-ocha has categorically dismissed speculations that the military might help the anti-government protesters albeit in tacit, hidden manner. But the arrest of several plainclothes soldiers who acted as bodyguards of protest leaders told an entirely different story. They were arrested on charges of carrying handguns without permission.
That prompted Undersecretary of Defense Gen. Nipat Tonglek to instruct the commanding officers of the army, navy and air force to strictly prohibit their subordinates to act as bodyguards for protesters, either during or after working hours.
"Any unbecoming act of military officers or uses of weapons without permission will certainly cause a disgrace and damage to the military establishment as a whole. The military is strictly neutral in politics," Gen. Nipat said.
Meanwhile Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn expressed fears that election officials and employees as well as voters could be subjected to harassment by the protesters during and before the balloting. He earlier called for the postponement of the polls until early May. But Yingluck and several members of her caretaker Cabinet maintained that neither the government nor the polling agency is legally allowed to reschedule the polling date and that both would be charged with negligence of duty if they move the date of the election.
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Thai caretaker PM urges protesters to oust her through vote
BANGKOK, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Thai caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Friday said the best way for protesters to get rid of the caretaker government is to vote it out in the Feb. 2 general election.
"If people want whoever to take care of the new government, they should use the vote," Yingluck said at a press conference for a group of foreign media. Full story