Yingluck appeals for reconciliation despite threat of more protests
BANGKOK — Embattled Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called for reconciliation today (Dec 31) as the streets of the capital, Bangkok, emptied ahead of New Year celebrations, a rare period of calm after weeks of unrest.
Anti-government protesters have vowed to disrupt a February 2 election called by Ms Yingluck in a bid to settle a crisis that has pitted her government against Bangkok’s conservative elite and middle class.
The demonstrators have threatened to shut down Bangkok after the New Year, with plans to block roads in up to 20 places, although the scope of their protests has not always matched the promises made by their leader, Mr Suthep Thaugsuban.
Ms Yingluck has not been in Bangkok for more than a week, spending time among supporters in the north, but she used social media to send a message seeking peace and reconciliation.
“On the occasion of New Year 2014, may I ask all Thais to be united in mind, to seek a blessing for the Thai people to love and harmonize and for those who differ in views, be it their political ideology or belief, to reconcile for a peaceful resolution for our nation,” she said in a Facebook post.
The demonstrators are determined to topple Ms Yingluck, who they see as a puppet of her self-exiled brother and former premier, Mr Thaksin Shinawatra.
Bangkok’s normally gridlocked streets were mostly clear today as people headed to the provinces for the holiday.
The latest protests have flared into violence at several protest sites over the past five days. At least eight people have been killed since they began in late November.
Last Thursday, a policeman and a protester were killed when an unidentified gunman fired during chaotic clashes outside an election registration centre.
Another protester was killed by an unidentified gunman at another rally site in a pre-dawn attack on Saturday. The Erawan Emergency Centre in Bangkok said another protester had been taken to hospital suffering gunshot wounds to the chest and arm after a shooting at a third site late yesterday.