Thai Red Shirts ready to fight Bangkok shutdown

AP News
Posted: Jan 02, 2014 11:11 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — Supporters of Thailand's beleaguered government said Thursday that they are prepared to counter a threat by anti-government protesters to shut down Bangkok later this month.

Leaders of the so-called Red Shirt movement stopped short Thursday of calling for their members to take to the streets of the capital to defend caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government from opponents who insist she step down. The opponents insist that Yingluck's administration be replaced by an appointed government before new elections are held. Polls are scheduled for Feb. 2.

Yingluck's critics, led by the self-style People's Democratic Reform Committee, say reform is urgently needed to root out corruption and money politics.

The PDRC vowed this week to stop the government from functioning by occupying key Bangkok intersections on Jan. 13 to cause traffic chaos in the city.

PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban said in a speech to followers Thursday night that they would also cut water and electricity at the homes of Yingluck and her Cabinet ministers.

Jatuporn Promphan, a Red Shirt leader, said the group's networks nationwide have been told to get ready to safeguard the government.

The PDRC has already staged several militant actions by temporarily occupying government office compounds and trying to stop election candidates from registering.

The failure to complete candidate registrations in several provinces in southern Thailand — where support for the PDRC is strong — raises a possible hurdle to forming a new government, since the lower house must have 95 percent of its 500 seats filled to convene.

The opposition Democrat Party — closely allied to the PDRC — is boycotting the February polls, claiming that to contest them would disappoint their supporters who want political reforms. The government says the opposition is boycotting the election because it knows it cannot win.

Yingluck is the sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire who was deposed by a coup in 2006 after being accused of corruption and abuse of power. His critics charge that his money gives him a stranglehold over politics and allows him and his followers to maintain a parliamentary dictatorship.