Thailand Prime Minister Shinawatra says 'unconstitutional' demands of protesters unacceptable
AP and AFP
December 3, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
BANGKOK -- Thailand's prime minister said Monday she is willing to do anything it takes to end violent protests against her government and restore peace, but cannot accept the opposition's “unconstitutional” demand to hand power to an unelected council.
Yingluck Shinawatra's comments, broadcast in a televised news conference, highlighted the unusual political deadlock Thailand finds itself in with no clear solution in sight even as violence on the streets continues to rise.
As Yingluck spoke from the heavily guarded national police headquarters, street battles between protesters and police that started over the weekend intensified. Protesters commandeered garbage trucks and bulldozers and tried to ram concrete barriers at Government House and other key offices. Police struggled to repel them by firing tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets, as protesters shot back explosives from homemade rocket launchers
The protests aimed at toppling Yingluck's government have renewed fears of prolonged instability in one of Southeast Asia's biggest economies and comes just ahead of the peak holiday tourist season.
At least three people were killed and more than 200 injured in the past three days of violence, which capped a week of massive street rallies that drew crowds of more than 100,000 at their peak.
“If there's anything I can do to bring peace back to the Thai people I am happy to do it,” Yingluck said, striking a conciliatory but firm tone. “The government is more than willing to have talks, but I myself cannot see a way out of this problem that is within the law and in the constitution.”
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who met with Yingluck on Sunday night, has said he will not be satisfied with Yingluck's resignation or new elections. Instead, he wants an unelected “people's council” to pick a new prime minister who would replace Yingluck, even though she was elected with an overwhelming majority. His demand has been criticized by many as undemocratic.
“I don't know how we can proceed” with Suthep's demand, she said. “We don't know how to make it happen. Right now we don't see any way to resolve the problem under the constitution,” she said in the brief 12-minute news conference.
She cited Suthep's repeated statements that he won't be satisfied even if she steps down to end the deadlock, and implied that she was willing to hold fresh elections if that helps.
“I am not against either resignation or dissolution of parliament if this solution will stop the protests,” she said. “The government is not trying to cling to power.”