Thailand is experiencing some of the worst protests and civil unrest in years and the government has installed special security laws in the capital in an attempt to bring the situation under control. Protesters have been raiding government offices in an attempt to topple Yingluck Shinawatra’s government after a failed bid to grant her brother amnesty.
Thailand placed under tight security control
Yingluck announced last Friday that the capital would be placed under tighter control, using laws in the Thai Internal Security Act. The government has enacted curfews, road blocks, and random vehicle searches. Access to certain neighborhoods and buildings has also been restricted. The Security Act has proven to be effective at stopping protests in the past, however, the most recent period of unrest is one of the worst in recent memory.
Protesters believe that Yingluck has essentially became a proxy for her brother, ousted former Prime Minister Thaskin Shinawatra. Thaskin was ousted by the military in 2006 and would later flee in a self-imposed exile. He was eventually charged and convicted of numerous crimes, but has refused to return to Thailand to face punishment. Earlier this month, Yingluck tried to pass a bill that would have essentially granted Thaskin amnesty, sparking the most recent bout of protests.
Yingluck was elected in 2011 and won by a landslide, however her opponents have always been vocal critics. Now, with her popularity eroding, Ms. Yingluck may be facing the strongest challenge yet to her administration. Tens of thousands of protesters have filled the streets. Right now, protesters are being led by former lawmaker Suthep Thaugsuban, who resigned specifically to lead the anti-government movement.
Protestors cut power, water supply to Thailand’s Budget Bureau
So far they have cut power and water to the Budget Bureau, and have also raided and occupied the Foreign Ministry building. Thousands of other protesters also converged on other key government locations. Military and police stations were targeted, although protesters weren’t aiming to occupy these targets. Instead, they urged members of the police and armed forces to stop supporting the government.
Protesters are demanding that Yingluck resign and dissolve the Congress. This would bring about early elections. Yingluck had enjoyed relatively strong support following a massive rice subsidy program that provides many rural Thai individuals with extra income. Her brother was also popular while in office and many of his supporters now support Ms. Yingluck. Still, her attempt to grant her brother amnesty appears to have been a serious misstep.
Yingluck promises government’s response
Yingluck has promised that the government will respond to protests and bring the situation under control. She has also pledged not to use violence. With the situation quickly deteriorating, however, Yingluck may be forced between using the military and police to disperse protesters, which often ends in bloodshed, or calling fresh elections and hoping that she can legitimize her government.