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Prime Minister says Suthep’s Demands Impossible to Meet



A tourist watches protesters in Bangkok. Photo: EPA


BANGKOK – Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said today she was ready to resign if her resignation could persuade demonstrators to end the protests and return homes, and peace could be restored in the country.

A total of 34 countries and regions have issued warning for travel to Thailand where political tension has run high.

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, China, the United States, France, Australia and Japan were among those countries and regions issuing travel alert.

Tourists walk past anti-riot police on guard near the Parliament House in Bangkok. Photo: EPA

Anti-govenrment protests in Bangkok continued on Monday with protestors trying to seize more state offices in their bid to topple the government.

Three Thai media organizations on Sunday accused anti-government protestors of threatening news groups.

Led by former Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban, protestors ordered TV stations to report their activities only, rather than government announcements, said a statement issued by the Thai Journalists Association, the Broadcast Journalists Association and the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand.

This move interfered with the freedom of the media and ran counter to democracy, said the statement.

These organizations required protestors to drop all means of threat and intimidation.

The statement also urged state-run TV stations to comprehensively report all situation, especially those with significant social influence.

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, were the clearest indication yet that negotiations are unlikely to solve the country’s increasingly violent political standoff.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Monday that she was ready to resign to bring peace to the country.

As Yingluck spoke from the country’s heavily fortified national police headquarters, stone-throwing protesters battled through clouds of police tear gas in a renewed attempt to seize her office, the Government House, and other key government buildings. As the day progressed, the protesters got hold of a garbage truck and a police truck, using them to break through parts of concrete barricades.

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.

“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.

The protesters, who are mostly middle-class Bangkok supporters of the opposition Democrat Party, accuse Yingluck of being a proxy for her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He was deposed in a 2006 military coup but remains central to Thailand’s political crisis, and is a focal point for the protester’s hatred.

The protesters, who call themselves the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, say their goal is to uproot the political machine of Thaksin, who is accused of widespread corruption and abuse of power.

Monday’s violence took place around key institutions — the Government House, the Parliament and Metropolitan Police Headquarters in the historic quarter of the capital. The area has some of Bangkok’s main tourist attractions such as the Grand Palace, Wat Pho temple, the Bangkok zoo, and the backpacker area of Khao San Road. Most of Bangkok, a city of 10 million, has been unaffected.

The protesters’ numbers have dwindled from a peak of 100,000-plus a week ago but a small groups of a few hundreds youths have remained at the frontline, fighting running battles with the police. They threw bottles, rocks and smoke bombs Monday over concrete and razor-wire barricades that they tried to rip down. They were repeatedly repelled by volleys of tear gas, bursts of water cannon and rubber bullets.

Many schools and offices, including the United Nations’ regional headquarters located near the Government House, were closed.

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