in Thai politics

Thailand update: Democrats to boycott election; a few stories on today’s protest

First, the news about the Democrats:

No huge surprise there; here’s a Wall Street Journal story with the details:

Thailand’s opposition Democrat Party Saturday said it would boycott upcoming national elections slated for Feb. 2, raising the stakes in an escalating standoff with the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the country’s democracy had been manipulated by powerful interest groups—a thinly veiled reference to the influential Shinawatra clan—resulting in other Thais “losing faith” in the democratic system.

The boycott adds to the growing pressure on Ms. Yingluck to postpone the election or to step aside to allow an appointed government to take over and pursue a series of reforms before the ballot goes ahead.

And here’s some info on the protests today.

The AP reported:

Tens of thousands of protesters marched through Thailand’s capital on Sunday, paralyzing traffic and facing off with police outside the prime minister’s residence in their latest bid to force her from office.

The rally came a day after Thailand’s main opposition Democrat Party announced that it would boycott early elections called for Feb. 2, a move that appeared to have emboldened the protest movement.

The protesters split into more than a dozen groups scattered around central Bangkok, including in some of the capital’s main shopping areas. One of the groups gathered outside Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s home, but she was not inside at the time. Hundreds of riot police blocked the flag-waving crowd from moving past the home’s outside gate.

The New York Times said:

The dueling realities of Thailand’s political crisis were vividly on display on Sunday.

In Bangkok, antigovernment protesters blocked traffic at major intersections and marched to the house of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, demanding she step down.

But Ms. Yingluck was absent. She was ensconced among adoring crowds in northeastern Thailand, the power base of her party, a vast region with a population that rivals Bangkok.

Like red and blue states in America, Thailand’s geographical divides have become even sharper as the country’s month-old political crisis wears on. And more than ever the country is split over whether elections are the answer to the country’s woes or whether Thailand should suspend democracy while it “reforms” its political system, the plan advocated by protesters.

Reuters said:

Tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators massed at sites around Thailand’s capital on Sunday in a bid to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra before an uncertain February election the main opposition party will boycott.

Yingluck has called a snap poll for February 2 to try to cool tension and renew her mandate, but protesters reject any election until the implementation of vague reforms ostensibly aimed at weakening the influence of the Shinawatra family.

The weeks-long political deadlock became more uncertain on Saturday when the opposition Democrat Party, Thailand’s oldest, announced it would boycott the election, saying the democratic system had failed Thais.

Bloomberg reported:

More than 1,000 anti-government protesters surrounded Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s home in Bangkok, as she criticized the main opposition Democrat Party for its plan to boycott a Feb. 2 election.

“It’s regretful because the Democrats are well-known for their aim to protect democracy and the legislative branch,” Yingluck told reporters traveling with her in Udon Thani province in the country’s northeast, referring to the party led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former premier. “The Democrats’ aim is political reform. If we don’t have an election, how can we make it concrete?