Thai protesters return to streets as pro-government forces up the ante

Thai protesters return to streets as pro-government forces up the ante
Thailand's caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra leaves the Royal Thai Air Force headquarters after a cabinet meeting in Bangkok.

BANGKOK - Anti-government demonstrators in Thailand resumed street protests on Monday after lying low for weeks, piling pressure on increasingly beleaguered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is expected to face impeachment within days.

Her opponents were emboldened by a Constitutional Court decision on Friday to nullify last month's election, delaying the formation of a new administration and leaving Yingluck in charge of a caretaker government with limited powers.

Yingluck's opponents first took to the streets in late November. Twenty-three people were killed and hundreds wounded in the political violence before the protests began to subside earlier this month. But the court ruling appears to have given a second wind to the agitation.

The protests are the latest instalment of an eight-year political battle broadly pitting the Bangkok middle class and royalist establishment against the mostly rural supporters of Yingluck and her billionaire brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

There are growing fears that Thailand could be heading towards serious civil unrest. After months of restraint, Thaksin's "red shirt" supporters have begun making militant noises under hardline new leaders.

They plan a big rally on April 5, possibly in Bangkok, and the political atmosphere is expected to become even more highly charged in coming days.

Yingluk has until March 31 to defend herself before the National Anti-Corruption Commission for dereliction of duty over a ruinous rice-buying scheme that has run up huge losses.

If the commission recommends her impeachment, she could be removed from office by the upper house Senate, which is likely to have an anti-Thaksin majority after an election for half its members on March 30.

CLOCK TICKING

The Constitutional Court annulment of the election could offer a way out of the political stalemate if the main opposition Democrat Party, which boycotted the February 2 poll, decides to run in a fresh vote.

So far, however, the Democrat Party has given no clear indication on what it plans to do.

The Election Commission, which is in charge of organising the new poll, met on Monday to decide how to proceed. Its chairman said on Friday it would take at least three months to organise a new vote.

It is increasingly uncertain whether Yingluck will last that long, due to the mounting legal challenges.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDED CONTENT

SPONSORED CONTENT

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.