Thai deputy PM quits after Bangkok clashes
THAILAND: Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh
quit on Tuesday, saying he accepted responsibility for clashes between
police and anti-government protesters that injured 69 people in Bangkok.
The resignation of the government’s top negotiator with the People’s
Alliance for Democracy (PAD) was a further blow to new Prime Minister
Somchai Wongsawat’s efforts to defuse a four-month street campaign
against the elected administration.
Chavalit said he had ordered police to use restraint against the
5,000 PAD supporters barricaded outside parliament to disrupt Somchai’s
maiden policy speech.
But some protesters were badly hurt, including two men who had part
of their legs blown off by exploding teargas canisters when police
cleared a path into parliament for ministers.
“Since this action did not achieve what I planned, I want to show my
responsibility for this operation,” Chavalit said in his resignation
By late afternoon, the PAD controlled several city blocks around
parliament and police headquarters, where riot police fired volleys of
teargas at the crowd.
They lobbed firecrackers at police crouched behind shields. At one
point, a city sewage truck drove past the building, spewing sewage at
the entrance to the police HQ. “Overthrow the Thaksin regime.
Together we win or lose. We will know it today. We won’t give up,”
PAD leader Anchalee Paireerak said.
The PAD, a coalition of businessmen, academics and activists, accuses
new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat of being a political proxy for
former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, his brother-in-law, who was removed
in a 2006 military coup.
The group argues Thai democracy has been undermined by billionaire
Thaksin and his allies, who easily won the last three elections, and has
called for a “new politics” that would include a proportion of appointed
Somchai, a soft-spoken former judge, has proved a harder target for
the PAD than his predecessor, the abrasive Samak Sundaravej, who stepped
down last month after being found guilty of a conflict of interest.
The demonstrators failed to stop Somchai’s speech, in which he called
for national reconciliation to end a three-year crisis pitting Thaksin
and his rural base against rivals in the royalist and military
establishment believed to be backing the PAD.