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On Wednesday officials announced they would deploy 15,000 troops, consisting of soldiers and police, in the capital next week during the planned ‘shutdown’ of Bangkok by demonstrators who plan to overthrow the government.
Following weeks of opposition street protests Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called for February elections, however fearful that this will only prolong the political dominance of the billionaire Shinawatra family the demonstrators have vowed to block the vote. Their planned shutdown of the capital is planned from January 13th until they win their battle to topple the government. Stages will be set up around the city and officials will be prevented from going to work, water and power supplies will also be affected as plans are afoot to cut off both services to all state buildings.
“Our goal is to prevent any violence or clashes,” he said.
Thai stocks and the baht currency have fallen sharply on concerns that the deepening crisis will scare off foreign tourists and international investment. 19 flights from Singapore to Bangkok have been cancelled by Singapore Airlines between Jan 13th and Feb 25th. The authorities in Bangkok have instructed 146 schools to close on Monday 13th due to the shutdown.
Officials say the government is ready to declare a state of emergency if needed to deal with any unrest, following several outbreaks of street violence in which eight people, including a policeman, have been killed and hundreds wounded.
The demonstrators who are largely from the south of the country, royalists, middle class and the urban elite have denied accusations from critics that they want to provoke fresh clashes in the hope of triggering a military coup on the pretense of resorting order. They accuse Thaksin the billionaire tycoon turned politician of corruption and believe he is controlling his sister’s government from his self imposed exile in Dubai.
They want an unelected “people’s council” to run the country to oversee vague reforms, such as an end to alleged “vote buying” through populist policies, before new elections are held in around a year to 18 months.
Yingluck’s government still enjoys strong support in the north and northeast of the country and is expected to win the February 2 election if it goes ahead. The recent civil strife is the worst since 2010, when more than 90 people were killed in a bloody military crackdown on pro-Thaksin Red Shirt protests under the previous government.
Ex-deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban was due in court Wednesday to face a murder indictment over those deaths, but he asked for another postponement because he is leading the current protests. If he fails to appear again prosecutors will seek a warrant for his arrest, the attorney general’s office said, in addition to an existing warrant for insurrection for trying to topple the government.