Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Prime Minister of Thailand Pleads for End to Protests

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Prime Minister of Thailand Pleads for End to Protests

Article excerpt

BANGKOK -- Thailand's prime minister begged protesters Thursday to call off their sustained anti-government demonstrations and negotiate an end to the nation's latest crisis. But the protesters marched instead to new targets, including the national police headquarters, where they cut power lines.

Yingluck Shinawatra issued the plea after she easily defeated a no-confidence vote pushed by her opponents, who are heavily outnumbered in Parliament but have taken to the streets in droves to demand not only her ouster but changes that would make the country less democratic.

They say they want to uproot the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Ms. Yingluck's brother, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006 for alleged corruption and abuse of power.

The protesters accuse Ms. Yingluck of being a puppet of her billionaire brother.

"Please call off the protests for the country's peace," said Ms. Yingluck, who is facing the biggest challenge to her rule since taking office in 2011. "I'm begging you ... because this doesn't make the situation any better."

Suthep Thaugsuban, who resigned as an opposition Democrat Party lawmaker to lead the protests, has insisted he will not negotiate.

The demonstrators, most of them sympathetic to the Democrat Party, have taken over or surrounded several ministry buildings, which Ms. Yingluck said failed to shut down the government but created the potential for violence.

Police spokesman Piya Uthayo said a total of about 15,000 protesters were grouped Thursday at about six locations in and around Bangkok.

Ms. Yingluck has been reluctant to use force to evict the protesters for fear of escalating the conflict and sparking bloodshed, which would harm investor confidence and the lucrative tourism industry.

"The fact that the government has followed peaceful means does not mean the government cannot administer the country or cannot enforce the law to provide order," she said in a televised speech.

Hordes of demonstrators marched to the police headquarters in the center of Bangkok where they cut the electrical lines to the compound. Helmeted riot police with shields remained holed up inside, but did nothing to stop them. …

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