Thai protest leader promises to surrender if May 27 rally fails to oust govt

Thai protest leader promises to surrender if May 27 rally fails to oust govt

BANGKOK - The six-month-long anti-government rally will end on Tuesday this week - with either success or failure in the bid to topple the caretaker government and "uproot the Thaksin regime", Suthep Thaugsuban announced yesterday.

"If we have not won by May 27, I will surrender to authorities, and everyone can go home," said Suthep, who heads the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

Suthep called a meeting of PDRC leaders from across the country at Government House yesterday to draw up a plan for its final offensive next weekend - May 23-25 - to force the resignation of the caretaker Cabinet and the appointment of a new prime minister.

If he is disappointed by the turnout of supporters, he will call it quits.

"It will be the biggest uprising of people across the country, which will end on Monday (May 26)," he said.

"We will know whether we will have victory or defeat that day. If we do not achieve victory, I will turn myself into police and end the protest because I cannot put up a longer fight because of the negative consequences to the country.

"People also have to return to earn a living. Victory or defeat, we will have to be resigned to it because we have done our best."

Suthep has led a street rally in the capital, laid siege to ministries to disrupt their work and managed to block the February 2 election.

Although caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and nine key Cabinet members were recently removed from their posts following a Constitutional Court ruling over the unlawful transfer of National Security chief Thawil Pliensri, the remaining Cabinet led by acting PM Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan has continued to function.

Suthep and key PDRC members have faced arrest warrants on insurrection and other serious charges as a result of the group's struggle. A few PDRC leaders have been arrested. Sombat Thamrongthanyawong was arrested on Friday at National Institute of Development Administration.

The PDRC suffered its latest setback after the Senate rejected its call to immediately nominate a PM under Article 7 of the charter.

The Senate on Friday urged the caretaker Cabinet to resign to pave the way for a new Cabinet that is fully functional and led by a PM with full authority. It also threatened to hold a special session to select the new PM.

Suthep said the PDRC would dispatch teams to demand the resignation of the remaining 25 Cabinet members.

The former Democrat also ordered top ministry officials and provincial governors to attend the PDRC meeting on Thursday.

PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan said that although the group and the Senate shared the same goal to find a new PM with full authority to run the country, the Senate did not have a timeframe for achieving it.

"We cannot wait because our people are being killed and injured. The country's economy is being adversely affected,'' he said.

Akanat denied claims that the PDRC had been trying to instigate violence and riots to provoke the military to stage a coup.

The military on Thursday threatened to exercise full force and impose martial law after three PDRC protesters were killed and 20 injured in an M79 grenade and automatic weapon attack at Democracy Monument.

Pheu Thai Party deputy spokesman Anusorn Iamsa, meanwhile, denied an allegation by Suthep that ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra intended to pay 35 Senators Bt7 billion in total for their allegiance.

"Suthep is insulting the senators. They are not goods that anyone can order to buy on the phone,'' he said.

He said Suthep had met a political dead-end because Senate Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai refused to provide him a graceful exit.

Senator Kamnoon Sitthisamarn posted on Facebook that the Senate had two options in regards to pushing for an interim government: either do it immediately or wait until the caretaker Cabinet voluntarily resigns.

"Our decision will be based on the damage to the country, not about courage or cowardice. We will do the best thing in the country's interests,'' he said.

In a related development, the pro-government red shirts plan to mobilise at least 30,000 more people to join their rally on Aksa Road, just outside Bangkok, Anuthin Thinnaraj, a red-shirt leader, said yesterday.

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