Biden Yingluck presents softer side against protest leader

Biden Yingluck presents softer side against protest leader

IN THE complex chess game of Thai politics, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is positioning herself as being conciliatory and open to negotiations, in contrast to intransigent protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, analysts say.

As Mr Suthep urged protesters to brace themselves for more tear gas on Tuesday, a solution to the latest political crisis remains elusive, leaving businesses in jitters.

Mr Sugree Sithivanich, a senior official of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said some 300,000 foreign visitors so far have cancelled their visits, which will cost Thailand US$498 million (S$625 million) in lost tourism revenue.

It will be difficult to say what will happen, said Chulalongkorn University political science professor Pitch Pongsawat.

"Suthep might win tomorrow," he said. "But there could also be some kind of pause on the King's birthday on Thursday, when all will try to interpret his speech in their own favour - and after that, there will be a long fight."

Increasingly frail King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who will turn 86, is in Hua Hin, but birthday celebrations will be held in Bangkok. Many Thais assume political tensions will abate momentarily.

"The government does not need to rush or set itself deadlines. It can wait. Maybe tomorrow or the day after, there will be a break, and after that, we will see if the protesters hold together," Cabinet minister Chaturon Chaisang told The Straits Times.

"And if the protest drags on, we would have to see the public's response."

Referring to Mr Suthep, he said: "What Suthep wants can only be accomplished by a coup d'etat, and I don't think the army chief wants to stage a coup."

The Democrat Party politician, already indicted for murder over the deaths of civilian protesters when his party was in power in 2010, is facing a fresh charge of insurrection. On Monday night, he said he would not return to politics but would "fight with the people", urging them to seize the national police headquarters on Tuesday.

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