Game of cat-and-mouse set to turn ugly

Game of cat-and-mouse set to turn ugly
Anti-government protesters gather outside Thailand's Energy Ministry in Bangkok.

The battle is about to begin. It could turn ugly. After leading an anti-government rally for almost a month, culminating with a historic "one-million-man" gathering at Rajdamnoen Avenue gathering on Sunday, Suthep Thaugsuban has realised that winning this war won't be easy. He had to escalate the level of civil disobedience.

The strategy is to win support from the civil servants. If they agree to walk away from their posts, government machinery will come to a halt.

The protesters have marched on key ministries and government agencies in Bangkok, and city halls in the provinces, in a bid to get the civil servants on their side.

Many have welcomed the protesters, willing to risk upsetting their superiors by taking sides during this time of political turmoil. Suthep hopes to hang on and garner more support from the masses, forcing a sudden change of government. But how?

Having survived the no-confidence debate, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra went on national television to extend an olive branch.

She offered a truce, saying that the rally should stop and that the government is willing to hold talks with the protesters. But Suthep has vowed to fight on until the anti-government campaign achieves a clear-cut victory.

The former deputy prime minister, who resigned as an MP to lead the protest, refuses to negotiate. He has vowed that neither a House dissolution nor Yingluck's resignation will end the campaign. What he wants is for the so-called Thaksin regime to be uprooted once and for all.

Only then would Thailand be able to begin a reform process to get rid of money politics and bring about a true democracy.

It is not clear how the confrontation will end. There is no compromise in sight. Yingluck will fight back to hold on to power. Suthep has caught a tiger by its tail and now he can only end the rally by killing that tiger. Yingluck has the power.

State machinery, particularly the formidable police force, is under her control. Suthep, meanwhile, has mass support. It is an incredible time for Thai politics.

The protesters are heart-and-soul behind Suthep. They don't consider him a politician. They are not questioning his political background. They only want to follow his leadership to oust the Yingluck government, which they firmly believe is operating under the remote control of her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

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