The leader of Thailand’s anti-government protests said unexpectedly that he had met the prime minister Sunday after daylong clashes between his supporters and police but defiantly told her he would accept nothing less than having her elected government step down to be replaced by an appointed council.
Suthep Thaugsuban said the meeting with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was held under the auspices of the military, which says it is neutral in the conflict. His account of defiance drew lusty cheers from his supporters.
Police throughout the day fought off mobs of rock-throwing protesters who tried to battle their way into the government’s heavily-fortified headquarters and other offices. Mobs also besieged several television stations, demanding they broadcast the protesters’ views and not the government’s. Several of the capital’s biggest shopping malls closed in the heart of the city due to the unrest.
With skirmishes around Yingluck’s office at Government House continuing as darkness fell, the government advised Bangkok residents to stay indoors overnight for their safety.
Suthep insisted to his supporters that the meeting with Yingluck did not constitute negotiations. The protesters had dubbed Sunday “victory day’’ but failed to attain their main stated goal of taking over the prime minister’s offices, despite engaging in pitched street battles. Yingluck’s government has gone to painstaking lengths to avoid using deadly force.
“I only came to tell Ms Yingluck Shinawatra that right now, people all over Thailand have stood up to show their ownership of Thailand,’’ Suthep said.
He told followers it would take another two days for their goal to be reached. He earlier called for all public servants to take Monday off. Last week, protesters tried to disrupt government operations by besieging and occupying parts of several ministries and other government offices.
“If Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra listens to the people’s voices and returns the power to the people, we will treat Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra with politeness because we all are good citizens,’’ he said.