BANGKOK - Bangkok faces paralysis today as huge crowds of anti-government protesters set out on symbolic marches across the capital in a move that protest leaders are calling an attempt to overthrow the so-called "Thaksin Shinawatra regime".
The enormous crowd that packed Democracy Monument and nearby areas yesterday looks set to enable the Democrat Party and its allies, which are leading the joint protests, to come up with various measures today - starting at 8.30am - to put pressure on the Pheu Thai-led coalition government. Their aim is initially to shut down, and eventually end, the so-called Thaksin regime.
The protesters yesterday crowded on to inner Rajdamnoen Avenue, spilling over into adjacent areas and blocking major roads, including Lan Luang Road, the Nang Lerng area and Khok Wua Intersection. Even Sanam Luang and nearby Pin Klao Bridge saw large numbers of protesters.
Two key groups of anti-government protesters are expected to move across the capital today. One group will march to block access to Government House and Parliament, while the other will pressure government agencies, a high-ranking protest source said yesterday.
The Students and People's Network for Thailand's Reform (STR) and the People's Army to Overthrow the Thaksin Regime - known for their hardline stances - will lead protesters to converge at eight key locations in central areas. At the same time, former Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban will lead a second group of marchers to 12 other locations - including the government civil-service complex on Chaeng Watthana Road - to call on officials to engage in acts of civil disobedience.
The Suthep-led march will no doubt cause temporary traffic congestion today. However, the blockade of Government House and Parliament are likely to have longer-lasting effects, as the Democrat-led protesters will attempt to prevent the no-confidence debate, which begins tomorrow, the source said.
Political deadlock is expected to hit the Yingluck government if the Parliament is blockaded; such an action would render the announcement of a last-resort House dissolution impossible. The Constitution bars a government from dissolving the House once a no-confidence motion has been accepted, pending a debate.
This possibility yesterday prompted a government operations centre, headed by Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, to urgently seek an alternative venue for tomorrow's censure debate.