THAILAND - Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra fought back tears yesterday when asked by reporters to respond to the anti-government group's demand that the whole Shinawatra clan leave the country.
In a shaky voice, her eyes welling with tears, she said she has backed down to the point where she did not know how to back down any further.
"Everyone can get hurt. It is not that I have no feelings. I have paid attention to the protesters' demands. We all are Thais. Do you want us not to even live on Thai soil?" Yingluck asked.
Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Democrat MP and leader of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), on Monday succeeded in mobilising over 100,000 protesters and demanded Yingluck and the entire Cabinet immediately relinquish administrative power after she announced the dissolution of the House of Representatives. He also vowed to create a "People's Assembly" to reshape the country.
Though the new election date has been declared for February 2, the situation remains tense, as it is unclear if Thailand's oldest party - the Democrats - would boycott the election, as they did in 2006.
The situation in Bangkok has caught international attention. Yesterday, Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the US Department of State, said in a statement: "We encourage all involved to resolve political differences peacefully and democratically in a way that reflects the will of the Thai people and strengthens the rule of law."
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also issued a statement, saying: "Confrontation is not a solution. Political exchange and a democratic dialogue is the right solution for now."
He also noted that if Bangkok witnessed more use of force, and more bloodshed, it would be a backward step for democracy, political and social stability as well as for Thailand's economic development.
Yingluck yesterday said she would stay on until the election was over. She also urged protesters to end their rallies and to go to the polls, to uphold democracy.
Thailand yesterday celebrated Constitution Day, remembering King Rama VII for the promulgation of the first constitution in 1932.
"What the government could do is to dissolve the House and return power to the people. We do not want to see violence," Yingluck said. Though key members of the Pheu Thai Party want her to contest the election, she said there has been no consultation yet. She refused to say if she would quit politics.
"I did not think that the situation would turn out to be like this. I do not want to see Thai politics become violence-prone," she said.
Former House speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont said the PDRC's demand for the government to resign is driving the country towards a dead end.
In a televised programme, caretaker Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri announced that in a consultation between government agencies including the Council of State, under the Constitution's Article 181, the government cannot leave office before the election is complete.
"The Cabinet is working based on the principle of collective responsibility. We have been appointed by His Majesty the King. But Suthep tried to establish another government without any legal support. The legal government considered that the PDRC's actions were violating His Majesty the King's royal prerogative power," he said.
Suthep urged protesters to stay with him until tomorrowDecember 12. In the announcement on Monday, he called officials across the country to report to the PDRC, rather than to their offices, in a bid to paralyse the administration.