BANGKOK -Supporters of Thailand’s embattled caretaker government have gathered for a rally on the outskirts of Bangkok. The demonstration comes a day after violent anti-government protests in the capital.
Saturday’s pro-government rally in Bangkok came as protesters opposed to the government also ramped up their efforts in a “final push” to install an unelected premier to replace the country’s interim administration by Monday.
The leader of the pro-government demonstration, Jatuporn Prompan (pictured center above), said that “as long as the country’s democracy is not safe, we will be here.”
He pledged that his so-called “Red Shirts” supporters would “escalate our fight immediately” if an unelected prime minister were to be installed.
Although the two competing rallies were taking place several kilometers (miles) apart, there were still concerns that violence could occur, with Jatuporn calling on each side to “take care of their own supporters” and avoid confrontation.
On Friday, anti-government protesters laid siege to television stations and surrounded state offices in a bid to impose their demands. Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of people who were trying to force their way into the government security agency. Six people were reported to have been injured.
Government opponents achieved a partial victory on Wednesday when the Constitutional Court ousted Yingluck Shinatwatra as prime minister, accusing her of abuse of power over the appointment of a security agency chief.
On Thursday, Yingluck was then indicted by an anti-corruption agency for negligence over a rice subsidy scheme that ran up huge losses.
Her Puea Thai Party still runs the interim government, having appointed deputy premier Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan as acting prime minister, and is hoping to organize a July 20 election that it would likely win.
But anti-government protesters want the election postponed and a non-elected prime minister to be installed to carry out reforms to end the influence of Yingluck’s exiled billionaire brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whom they see as still wielding undue power in the country.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told his followers on Friday night that the Senate should select a new premier immediately, since the lower house has been dissolved since December.
“This matter must end by Monday”, Suthep warned, sayiNg the protesters were ready to take over the offices of the prime minister themselves.
“If it’s not finished by then, we’ll do it ourselves.”
Six months of severe political unrest in Thailand have impacted negatively on investment, tourism and growth in what is Southeast-Asia’s second-largest economy.